L2Ret – The FCFS Rotation

If you have ever read anything about Retribution playstyle, you probably have heard about the FCFS rotation.  If you haven’t….     Well, I am glad you are here.

FCFS stands for “First Come, First Serve.”  Because ret is primarily an instant cast class, we aren’t waiting for cast times (you darned well shouldn’t be using exorcism with a cast time!!!!!).  Instead, we are waiting for different skills to come off of cool down.  But what happens when more than one skill comes off of cool down at the same time?  Well, that is what we mean when “highest DPS takes priority.”  But that can be tricky to figure out.

Hatch puts it best:

Having spent some time as retribution at 80, I can now add that doing optimal dps does require skill and quick decision-making. Leveling your character, and even 5-man instancing and 1 on 1 pvp, may be complete faceroll as ret, but executing your First Come First Served dps method while dealing with conflicts between different powers coming off cool down at the same time brings into play a skill gap between the best and the rest. I’d still maintain that it’s easier to learn and figure out than many other classes (rogues and DKs are much more complicated in their rotations for example, IMO, especially if you don’t have a guide), but at least raid performance as ret requires some thought.

I highlighted for emphasis.  This is perhaps the best quote that I have ever heard to describe a ret paladin.

The Basics

So, you have decided to play retribution – how the heck are you going to do the “leet deepz” that they are rumoured to have?   The answer is the FCFS rotation.  A facerolling pally can do decent damage in most of the game.  But in a raid situation the gap between those who are facerolling, and those who are skilled is very very apparent.  In 10 man raiding alone, assuming equal gear, the gap can be as high as 750 dps between a faceroller and a skilled player.  In 25 man, at least double that.  Sometimes triple, depending on the encounter.

The basis of the FCFS rotation starts like this – I have several skills.  The only way I can maximize my DPS is to use all of them.  Does it matter which one I start with, and which follows?

The answer is yes.  You see, some strikes proc the seal, others don’t.  Some have a long cool down, but also have long lasting DoT’s that need to stay up.

So lets go skill by skill to see what the rotation should be.  In no particular order, here are the skill you *should* be using:

Consecration – Judgement of *(insert judgement type here) – Crusader Strike – Divine Storm – Hammer of Wrath – Exorcism.

Now, lets take a look at what each skill does:


AOE DoT Holy Damage – Scales off of AP and SP

Judgement of *(insert judgement type here):     (For more information on Judgements, please see this)

Instant Damage (based on the seal) – Can Crit – Proc’s Seal Damage – Can Proc Righteous Vengeance – Does Apply Heart of the Crusader

Crusader Strike:

Instant Damage (Percentage of Weapon Damage) – Can Crit – Proc’s Seal Damage – Can Proc Righteous Vengeance

Divine Storm:

Instant AoE to up to 4 Targets – *Can* Proc Seal Damage – Can Proc Righteous Vengeance

Hammer of Wrath:

Finishing Move (only usable in last 20% of target’s health) – Instant Holy Damage (Scales off of AP and SP)


Castable Holy Damage, Scales off of AP and SP – Always Crits on Undead or Demon target

I know that is a lot of info to take into account.  Also of note here is holy damage – that is important – it is not resistable or mitigated by anything.  That means whatever you do in damage is going to be THAT damage.  This is the kind of damage that mages salivate at 🙂

In Single Target Situations

If available – your highest priority spell is Hammer of Wrath.  Its a heavy hitter – I hit for nearly 5.5k, and its all holy.  Boy is it ever fun when you actually see a single spell take a pixel or two off of the health bar of a boss.

Second Priority – Crusader Strike.  You may be taking a second gander at this, but let’s think for a minute.  First – judgement damage is only more than Crusader when you are at 5 stacks of the vengeance debuff.  If you have 5 stacks, you may swap around to judgement being second.  Secondly, early in the boss fight, you are going to want to get that Righteous Vengeance DoT up as quickly as possible.  Crusader Strike has the chance to bring that to bear.  It also has a quick cool down, so if it doesn’t proc, then you can swing around again and get it.

Third Priority – Judgement.  Judgement is an important skill for the group – it proc’s Heart of the Crusader – upping the crit chance of everyone in the party.   But, unless you have a full 5 stacks of the Vengeance debuff, it really does not hit like the truck it used to be under SoB/SoC.  It also has a chance to proc Righteous Vengeance.  Between your CS, Judgement, and DS, you should be near on 100% up time on that DoT.

Fourth – Divine Storm.  divine storm is one of those neat little skills that defines what a paladin is – utility.  It does damage, but not too much.  It isn’t holy though, and can be mitigated.  That is why it is way down here in the list on single targets.

Finally – Exorcism.  There is two reasons why Exorcism is so low on the list.  First, it doesn’t deal too much damage.  Crit, I might pull a 5k Exo out, but normally its under 3.5k.   Second, you MUST have Art of War proc’ed to use it.  If you do not have AoW, it has a 1.5 second cast time.

Ret is very much built around instant attacks.  If you get silenced, or interrupted, it locks you out of EVERY single skill you have to do damage.  This is not good.  Plus, 1.5 seconds is one GCD – that is a lot of missed opportunity to use another skill.  If you are using Exo wrong, this, alone, will tank your DPS.

That is the Single Target rotation.  Single target only accounts for one type of encounter.  There are many different encounters in the game.   This is what separates the Best and the Rest, as Hatch puts it.   This is one of the places where you will have to adjust on the fly.  If there is more than 2 targets, then the rotation becomes Divine Storm and Consecrate as the first two, followed by the rest.  This allows us to have the stellar AoE that other classes must stop and channel – Ret’s are best utilized in the thick of things, ESPECIALLY with the upcoming SoC changes that will allow us to chain seal procs  a la Divine Storm.

As a final note, Hatch points out well – there are conflicts in the rotation.  There are times in the fight where you will have nothing to do for 2 or 3 seconds (the recent CS CD reduction helps this out), followed by a button smashing storm.  And what if Judgement and CS cool down at the same time?  This is where the skill comes in.  You have to identify, and use, the highest priority skill in your list.  If you have a sliver of cool down left on Hammer of Wrath, but Crusader Strike is up?   If the sliver is less than that of a GCD, then you are better waiting for HoW.

Some might say that this is a little extreme, but this is the skill that separates the very best from the facerollers.  It takes skill, but your group will notice.  As I said in the Ret introduction, Retribution players are their best at twitch gaming and quick, snap judgements.  It is a skill, but its a skill that can be learned.  And if you master it, you will be among the most memorable players that your group has ever seen.

2 Responses to “L2Ret – The FCFS Rotation”
  1. Darraxus says:

    I use basically the same rotation with my ret paly. Exorcism is also last because it is considered a spell (unless it changes) and has a higher chance to miss as it scales off of the spellhit table instead of melee hit.

    • Firespirit says:


      You bring up an important point that I didn’t mention. Yeah, it does operate off of the separate – spell hit table. But it is my experience that I rarely ever miss an exorcism (maybe this is because I am always runing with a Drenai – god I love that extra +Hit). The most important thing is not to waste an entire GCD on the cast time of exorcism (actually with haste, its prolly more than one GCD), ESPECIALLY if there is a risk of getting interrupted and locked out of all of your spells for 5 seconds or so.

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