Smart Retribution Paladin Leveling

As I have been leveling up my retribution paladin with full heirloom gear, I have been learning new limits and boundaries to what I can and cannot do. As my 4th Paladin to level, this one is by far going the fastest (with the help of the heirloom gear). But also, I have perfected my rotations, and gear choices are becoming smarter and providing optimal dps results.

Leveling DPS Rotations

As you level, you gain access to new spells. IncorporatingRet-Paladin-2 these spells into an optimal rotation is key to how fast you level, and how quickly you can bring down mobs.

At first, your options are very limited. Using Seal of Righteousness, you have auto attack and Judgement. This is 100% of your dps until Hand of Reckoning opens up at level 16. Hand of Reckoning only deals damage if the target is not focused on you, so it is the hands down opening spell in the rotation. It also works if the target is fleeing.

At level 20, you can start implementing Consecration and Exorcism. Exorcism I didn’t really use because of the cast time. Hand of Reckoning was able to deal any ranged damage I needed. Smart rotations would not include single target Consecrates, as that is a huge mana drain, eating up chunks of your time spent drinking. Only use Consecrates in packs of mobs.

After level 20, you are stuck with that rotation for 24 more levels. At 44, Hammer of Wrath unlocks, and at 50 you finally get Crusader Strike. The missing link is Divine Storm, which is obtainable at 60.

After your opening rotations, if the mob isn’t already dead, then it switches to First Come First Serve (FCFS) basis, based on the current level range rotation. This is how we refer to our rotation at level 80 endgame (FCFS).

So, here are the rotation lists for their respective levels:

* Hand of Reckoning is listed first to denote that it is my opening pull spell. If HoR is not applicable, ignore it and assume the rotation without it.

** Hammer of Wrath is under the assumption the mob is below 20% health. This takes precedence over the other spells when it is off cooldown.

Levels 1-3

  • Auto Attack

Levels 4-15

  • Judgement

Levels 16-19

  • Hand of Reckoning > Judgement

Levels 20-43

  • Hand of Reckoning > Judgement > Consecration (packs only)
    (Use Exorcism if you want, I used it occasionally to pull Undead targets)

Levels 44-49

  • Hand of Reckoning > Hammer of Wrath > Judgement > Exorcism > Consecration

Levels 50-59

  • Hand of Reckoning > Hammer of Wrath > Crusader Strike > Judgement > Exorcism > Consecration

Levels 60+

  • Hand of Reckoning > Hammer of Wrath > Crusader Strike > Judgement > Divine Storm > Exorcism > Consecration

*Please note these rotations are NOT based on level 80 endgame raiding. These are based on leveling, and assuming a general non-elite mob population of enemies.

Exceptions to the Rule

You should expect, absolutely 100% expect, to modify these rotations as needed, as each encounter can pose different and unique combat scenarios.

For instance, when I am in a pack of mobs while leveling, I rarely open with a ranged pull, opting to instead close in on foot. I hit Consecrate, then use Divine Storm (if 60+), then Holy Wrath (if Undead), then I switch into my normal dps rotation.

When fighting Undead, Exorcism comes to the top of my list if Art of War is procced, since it is an automatic critical strike against Undead mobs.

Make adjustments as needed, but still try and stick as close to the basic rotations as possible.

Level 40 Art of War and Judgements of the Wise

For those that don’t know…

At level 40 you can start putting talent points into Art of War (AoW) and Judgements of the Wise. These are two huge and absolutely critical talents that have a major impact on leveling.

My first choice was to put points straight into Judgements of the Wise, to eliminate all my mana issues. I kid you not, from the moment I had all three points in Judgements of the Wise, I never had to stop and drink again until after 60. The 25% instant replenishment was huge.

Not only that, I could now use Consecrate without the mana drain (having the Consecrate Glyph helps, too). I would open with Hand of Reckoning, cast Judgment, then lay down a Consecrate. If a second Judgement was necessary on the mob, that would replenish my mana. After that mob was dead, I’d move on to the next, and when I cast Judgement again, the mana would be back to full if it wasn’t already. A beautiful cycle.

Next I put points into Art of War, making my Flash of Light and Exorcism a instant cast on my melee criticals. This is also a huge boost to DPS and getting mobs down quickly. My favorite is when I have a proc right as I kill a mob, then move on to the next. I open with Hand of Reckoning, pop my instant Exorcism, then Judge and the mob is just about crippled before he even lays a hand on me! One quick auto attack and BOOM!…dead.

When both these talents are maxed out, you’ll notice a significant decrease in downtime from level 45 on. Even at 80 now, I never have mana or health issues when doing my PvE.

Health Issues

I have none. Literally, none. No downtime, no bandaging, no food to eat. With Judgement of Light, I’ve rarely had health issues from the moment I acquired the spell. Constant judgements, as well as Art of War FoL procs keep my HP running high at all times. If my HP is down for any reason (maybe a large pack of mobs), I throw on a quick Holy Light and I move on.

The key to leveling quickly is minimizing your downtime. Recovering health and mana sucks up more time than you would think, and Paladins are the crown jewel of low leveling maintenance.

Gearing Up

My Heirloom items are as follows:

Every other piece of gear bought was a BoE green or blue item from the AH. Occasionally I would use a quest reward gear piece. The key to buying BoE armor is finding what best suits your needs.

Here is how I rank Stats for leveling:

Levels 1-40

  1. Strength
  2. Intellect
  3. Stamina
  4. Agility
  5. Critical Strike

* Survivability is key, and stamina helps there, but Strength is the stat to pile on at first. Mana is also an issue once Consecrate comes into the picture, so Intellect is high up there as well. I love critical strike rating, but agility and its counterpart crit take a backseat to the top 3.

Levels 41+

  1. Strength
  2. Agility
  3. Critical Strike
  4. Stamina
  5. Intellect

* After Art of War and Judgements of the Wise come into the picture, I basically stopped worrying about HP and mana. I went straight to gear with Strength and Agility as my primary focus. Getting my damage up, along with my crit rating made for an exceptionally strong Paladin. I was moving through zones faster than I ever had before.

BoE Gear Choices

Levels 1-40

  1. …of the Bear
  2. …of the Gorilla
  3. …of the Tiger
  4. …of Strength
  5. …of the Eagle

Levels 41+

  1. …of the Tiger
  2. …of the Bear
  3. …of Strength
  4. …of the Gorilla
  5. …of the Eagle

After much experimenting, I finally found the optimal gear for leveling. At the beginning levels, up to level 40 or so, I mixed and matched mail armor items of the Bear and of the Tiger. At 40+, I started hunting for BoE items of the Tiger, with no major preference to plate, mail, or leather (the only difference being armor). Since I had no real health concerns, the armor rating didn’t carry as much weight any more.

See, I was always going to have to plate heirloom pieces with exceptional stats that I never need to replace. That meant I could venture out and try for the best combination of Stats. I started choosing the best piece available from Plate, Mail, and Leather Gear. Plate took top priority, then Mail, and finally Leather. Whichever piece of gear from the three was the best choice, that’s what I went for.


If you play smart, you will find that leveling a Paladin (as ret) is extremely easy and fun. The thrill of it is seeing how powerful a Paladin can be when you play the class correctly. After leveling just about every class there is in the game, I can say definitively that for my part, a Paladin has such high initial burst damage, that it has surpassed every other class in terms of kill speed and damage. Couple that with Paladins being the kings of ‘no downtime’, you have one hell of a class to play and level with.


  1. Tinneas says:

    What Seal do you suggest for leveling? I think you suggest Seal of Righteousness (but don’t really come out and say it). I’ve been using Seal of Command and think perhaps it’s at an advantage due to the cleaving effects of it. Was SoC changed to cleave recently and perhaps your guide was before that point? Looking for your expert guidance on this!


  2. Khor says:

    Absolutely, hands down Seal of Command as soon as it’s available at level 20. Seal of Righteousness up until that point. SoR only becomes more viable than SoC after you get the talent points invested in it. For leveling purposes, SoC is king due to more damage than SoR for its respective levels, but also for the ‘cleave’ aspect, which is a huge boost to ret paladin leveling.

  3. Nerevarine says:

    Just curious about the comments above. With 3.2.2 out do you still suggest Seal of Command? i have heard Seal of Corruption (I play Horde) replaces Seal of Command, and so this is what i have been using for my ret. Just curious if i made the right choice here.

    lvl 70 Pally (duh)

  4. Khor says:

    SoCorruption/SoV is the end game raiding seal of choice on single target bosses. Seal of Command, with its chaining ‘Cleave’ abilities now is absolutely the hands down choice for leveling, and in my opinion it is the best for level 80 PvE grinding and dailies, etc.

    Seal of Command works great on level 80 dungeon and raid trash mob packs, but you should switch to SoCorr/SoV for bosses, and Seal of Righteousness for single target trash mobs.

  5. Nerevarine says:

    Ah ok, thanks for explaining that. Btw, I like the website!

  6. Pallypwn100 says:

    Just a quick question. Should I still use consecration if there is only 1 mob? I have just been doing Exorcism > Judgement (of light) > Judgement/Exorcism again if needed. BTW, I am a lvl 38 ret pally, specific rotation in mind? TY

  7. Khor says:

    Hey man, I wouldn’t be using Consecrate on a single mob unless it’s a much higher level and you need the DPS. I save Consecrate for packs of mobs, as it is the biggest mana sink we have in terms of abilities. When you get Judgements of the Wise, you’ll be in much better position to throw in some extra Consecrates if you want.

  8. Pacqman says:

    Just wondering if you enchanted any of the gear other than the heirlooms when you were leveling? Also did you get the Swift Hand of Justice heirloom trinket? Love the website. Keep up the good work!

  9. Khor says:

    The only other enchant I really used was +9 stamina to bracers. That’s really about it. I was upgrading gear so frequently that I didn’t really want to spend the extra gold on enchants. I didn’t have the heirloom trinkets this time around, but next time I definitely will :)

  10. Kahrn says:

    Hey, I love your guides here, I’ve been leveling a Pally and its been a blast!

    I was wondering, should we just fill out the talent build posted under Ret Pally Talents, starting with the Ret tree, or is there a better talent build for leveling? You have attack rotations and gear covered, but besides the suggestion to get AoW and Judgementes of the wise at 40, you don’t have anything on leveling talents. Or do pallies just rock so much that talents don’t really matter? :P

    I also found that when fighting undead, I like to open with Exorcism first since it’s a cast, and hit Hand of Reckoning right as it finishes. If you time it right (or just mash it fast :P ), your HoR will still do its damage to the mob. And if HoR happens to crit also, well you won’t have to get your hands dirty with that particular mob :)

  11. Khor says:

    Hey Kahrn, thanks! You’re right, I don’t have the step-by-step guide on what talents to take as you level. I will have to add that. Thanks for the input!

    In term of Hand of Reckoning and Exorcism, you’re right there, too. In terms of both HoR and Ex hitting at the same time, it can be timed so that both do damage. If you want to pull that way, by all means, it will definitely work!

    Here’s the reason I don’t do it that way though…

    1) I am an impatient player, and I like things done quickly. Opening with a casted spell (maybe elites as an exception) slows me down, therefore I usually avoid it at all costs. That 2 second cast should tell you how impatient I can be when leveling!

    2) Opening with HoR is great because it is low mana usage, and hits pretty hard. Opening with Exorcism isn’t my optimal way of conserving mana, especially when I plan to pull several mobs at once, or do not plan on exiting combat for any large amount of time.

    For those two reasons I don’t use Exorcism, but that’s not right or wrong. It’s simply my playstyle. If opening with Ex/HoR fits a player’s playstyle, then by all means I encourage it! Totally depends on how you like to approach Ret Pally combat! :)

  12. Maewyn says:


    You may have mentioned it else where but what belssing do you use whilst leveling? I’m a level 35 Ret Pally and did use “B of Might”, changed to “of Kings”, re-specced and gone “BOM” again. I was just wondering which was better.



  13. Antibody says:

    Khor, i know this is kind of resurecting a dead post and all, and i know this Blog and site is mainly for ret paladins, but i’d really like to see a guide on rogues, or warriors. This guide was very interesting to read, but i still would LOVE to see one like this about rogues or warriors. Would be a great read!
    Thanks! :D

  14. Khor says:

    I definitely would love to include some other class guides. Currently I am working on a Druid, but I find my knowledge base is not as great on the other classes as it is Paladins. So, my goal is to keep plugging away at leveling other classes to provide the best information possible.

    For instance, I decided to get heirloom agility/DPS gear for the druid. Through level 16, I was doing more DPS in Night Elf form swinging my 2H mace than bear form. Casting wasn’t as effective due to my gear choices. I am now thinking it would have been better to go spell power 1-20, then agility and melee DPS 20+. It’s these kinds of things I need to work out.

  15. antibody says:

    ahh hmm, yeah, and once again, not trying to go TOO off topic here, but i noticed you have a rogue, and i love playing rogues, and would die to have one at 80, but they seem so boring to level to me. Any tips or ideas or specs/approaches? I’m having a hard time getting him to 80, currently been playing a week or so, and is 41 atm.

  16. Khor says:

    Hehe yeah, a Rogue is a fun, fun class to play…especially at lower levels. I am in the middle of completing a Druid guide, and the Rogue may be next. Not going to lie, though, the Druid is lacking inspiration, so my leveling guide can only reach to about 30 or so. The Rogue should be easier since I have been there before, but I did that without heirloom items. If I try to do a Rogue again at anytime, I will have the heirloom gear ready.

    One thing I can say to start off with is that Rogues are very very good damage dealers with daggers, BUT leveling is much faster when your high damage abilities isn’t based on fighting from behind. A MH sword, axe, or mace is what I would recommend having equipped.

    Beyond that, I will have to revisit the Rogue at lower levels. I really try to provide guides and information based on what I have done.

  17. eboe says:

    what I have found to work for me, for pulls, is macro-ing HOR and Exorcism – in the time it takes for most mobs to clear distance from the HOR range, the exorcism will have cast, and especially if you have Art of War going on and do a quick turnaround time from mob to mob.

  18. Mush says:

    This is totally incorrect for Cataclysm…. Crusader Strike is gotten at Lvl 1 now… HoR doesn’t do damage anymore… the levels that you get talents are different than presented here…

    Needs an update for Cata…. :)

    (but plz… keep up the good work!! LOVE this site…)


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