L2Ret – The Cataclysmically Large Ret FAQ for 4.1

In cataclysm, blizz’s sole goal with ret was to make it a much more complex play style. And by and large, they succeeded. Gone are the times where you can faceroll your way to competitive, chart topping dps. What takes its place is a true rotation, with the flavor of the old rotation, a kind of hybrid rogue play style, where missing or improperly using “holy power” (combo points for you rogues) can severely punish your dps. What we are left with is a rotation that is one of the most complex in the game, in stark contrast from the easiest we were during wrath.

But with success also comes failure. Stats are quite frankly boring, and in my opinion, completely broke. We now can share gear with tanks, which somewhat limits our choices for gear and gems. Our AoE is lacking compared to almost every other class.

Even with these problems, ret is still amazingly fun to play, and difficult to master. Welcome to Retribution 4.1.

Part 1 – Stats, Gemming, Reforging, Enchanting

What are my stat rankings?

This is where I was referring to stats being broken. STR is king, more so that even in wrath. So much so that, when determining whether an item is an upgrade, STR determines wether you take it or not. If an item has more STR, take it. You can reforge to move around secondary stats.

Hit (to cap) > STR > Expertise (to cap) > Mastery = Crit > Haste

Don’t you dare pick up anything with agility. Leave that to your hunters.

Notice mastery and crit are equal. Try to balance them out. The big theory crafting think tank that is EJ says that Mastery is marginally better than Crit. But realistically, the difference between mastery and crit is virtually negligible.

Haste used to be king – USED – it is now universally the worst stat. You will be reforging haste in every instance to something else.

What is hit cap?


What is expertise cap?

Technically, expertise cap is 21. But due to glyphing (see the glyph portion), you will only need to get to 11.

What meta gem do I use?

Reverberating Shadowspirit. If you have a cheap helm from lvling and don’t want to invest, you can look at chaotic shadowspirit, and chaotic skyflare. The largest portion of the meta contribution is the 3% increased crit damage. You don’t want to lose that.

What gems do I use?

Bold Inferno, Skillful Ember Topaz, Inscribed Ember Topaz, Etched Demonseye

In all cases, do not ever EVER gem straight hit, or expertise. You will lose too much str to gem for hit.

How do I socket gems?

Bold Inferno. For 99.9999% of sockets you will use only bold. The default position should be socket bold, except in these circumstances:

If your socket bonus (for one socket) is 20 STR then use a hybrid.

If your socket bonus (for one socket) is 30 Mastery or Crit, use a hybrid.

If your socket bonus (for two sockets) is 30 STR, use a Hybrid.

If your socket bonus (for two sockets) is 50 Mastery or Crit, use a Hybrid.

OMG, reforging is confusing! Help!?!?!

If you have any haste, Reforge to the next highest stat allowable, based on stat rankings.

If you have expertise or hit and are above cap, reforge into next highest stat so long as you do not go UNDER cap.

If your item has crit, and mastery, and you are at or above hit and expertise cap, leave it alone.

If you are not at hit cap, reforge away your worst stat (mastery and crit in balanced amounts) into hit. It is more important to be at hit cap than have those secondary stats.

If you are within 1-3 of your expertise cap, DO NOT reforge into expertise.

Simple enough πŸ™‚

Almost every single item will be reforged.

You said we could use tank gear – are you insane?

Nope, not insane. Generally tank gear comes with primary stats equal to, or slightly better, to items of similar Ilvl. Where they differ is secondary stats, which you can reforge. Generally they contain 1 DPS stat, and 1 Tank stat, like parry. Simply reforge the tank stat to one of your highest useful stats. This is not as efficient as having a pure DPS piece, however, it is totally acceptable if the gear is just going to be sharded, and it is an upgrade. An upgrade is an upgrade.

What do I enchant on my xxxxx?

Use your stat rankings to determine your best enchants. Unless you have the maelstroms to excess, use the next available enchant.

Avalanche for the “cheap” weapon enchant, Landslide if you are rolling in the cash.

Part 2 – Spec and Glyphs

What Spec Should I use?

This is the accepted standard spec. You can move the points from Long Arm Of The Law around as you like, however, it is generally inadvisable. Remember, the quicker you can move into battle, the more dps time you will have. You have one point that is “your choice”.

What glyphs do I use?


Seal of Truth – 10 expertise, the single biggest dps gain from a glyph you can take

Templar’s Verdict



Hammer of Wrath

Ascetic Crusader

Your choice


Your choice

Part 3 – The Rotation, Mechanics, Spells

What are the primary spells I will be using as ret?

Crusader Strike (CS)

Divine Storm (DS)

Inquisition (INQ)

Judgement (J)

Holy Wrath (HW)

Exorcism (Exo)

Consecration (Cons)

Hammer of Wrath (HoW)

Avenging Wrath (AW)

Guardian of Ancient Kings (GK)

Zealotry (Zeal)

Templar’s Verdict (TV)

What are the special combat mechanics of ret paladins?

Ret paladins how have Holy Power, in addition to mana, to manage. This holy power sort of functions like rogue combo points – you build them up in combat using crusader strike (one CS = 1 HP, except in Zealotry phase). This is especially important because many of your primary DPS talents rely on HP to do more damage.

Wow, that is a LOT of spells, how am I ever going to manage that in combat?!?!

I like to group up the spells into three categories – Single Target, AoE, and Cooldowns. They are as follows:



Divine Storm

Holy Wrath

Single Target


Holy Wrath

Crusader Strike

Templar’s Verdict


Hammer of Wrath


Avenging Wrath


Holy Wrath

Guardian of Ancient Kings

What seals do I use?

Seal of Truth if you are going to be on a target for 20 seconds or more. Seal of Righteousness if you are frequently changing targets, or in an AoE situation. Trash basically.

How does my rotation work?

Ret paladins have two separate rotations – one for AoE and one for Single Target (boss fights and such).


The AoE rotation is simple – use Divine Storm, Consecration, and Holy Wrath as they come off cooldown, filling in with single target as needed. AoE is particularly mana intensive, so make sure you are judging to replentish mana. Also, Divine storm is only superior to Crusader strike if there are 4 targets or more. If there are 4 or fewer, you must switch to single target tactics.

Single Target

The previous incarnations of ret were simply first come, first serve, priority based. That means, you smashed the buttons whenever they came off cooldown, with weight towards the highest dps spell. The new rotation is a priority based filler rotation. The rotation is this:

CS > Filler > Filler > CS > Filler > Filler > CS > TV

The entire point of the ret rotation is to get holy power through Crusader Strike to use Templar’s Verdict. It is the third hardest hitting spell you have.

Filler spells in this rotation is any spell other than CS. This could be Exo, Cons, or any of your cooldown spells, or even a potion. The idea is the only time you are going to miss a crusader strike is if you have a proc that is higher priority. All filler spells should be used based on the highest dps available.

Your CS will come off of cooldown before the GCD of the second filler finishes. Do not take this as incentive to stand and wait, or trim off that second filler. It is universally a DPS loss. Do not try to stack haste to trim this second filler off either, it is simply not feasible, and a massive dps loss to try and do.

I have the basic premise of the rotation down, what are the priorities of the spells?

HoW > Exo (proc only) > TV (3 HP only) > CS > Judge > HW > Cons

Hammer of Wrath is your single biggest dps spell. It hits like a Mack truck, and a large part of that damage is holy, meaning it cannot be mitigated by resistances – it shoots straight through to the target.

Exo is next, but it only ever should be used with an AoW proc. If you cast exo at any time without the proc, it is a dps loss. It loses the DPS gain of AoW, drains your mana, and most importantly, stops and resets your swing timer.

Templar’s Verdict should only be used with three holy power. Using it with any less is a massive dps loss.

Consecration is at the end only because it really is your lowest dps spell, and is only used as a filler when you have NOTHING ELSE you can do. It will use 50% of your mana, but it is SOME dps, rather than none.

I see there is a talent, selfless healer, that allows me to get a DPS increase for using my HP to heal others, thats neat!

Yup, it is. But using selfless healer will ALWAYS, in EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE be a dps loss. The buff is not large enough or long enough to counteract the loss of the TV or Inquisition refresh.

However, when faced with the choice of TV or keeping the tank up through a rough spot, there is an obvious choice.

Mastery procs are quite unpredictable. How do I fit them into my rotation?

Treat mastery procs as a “filler”. Either use it to refresh inquisition, or fit an extra TV in as one of your filler placeholders. If you absolutely must, you can use it for selfless healer, but remember, its ALWAYS a dps loss.

Alright, enough of that. How am I using cooldowns?

Cooldown usage is simple enough.


First off, inquisition should be thought of as a very short duration cooldown that needs to be up as close to 100% as possible. It increases your holy damage for each of your spells. For each point of HP you generate, it lasts 10 seconds. Generally, you should refresh INQ only when you have three holy power. Depending on latency, start anticipating refreshing INQ at about 3 or 4 seconds. Your goal is to clip as little time (meaning refreshing before its expiring) and not let it expire if at all possible. Think of it as The Price Is Right – The closest to the actual time of expiry, without going over. Remember, you can use your mastery procs to refresh it.


Zealotry is a unique little bugger. It makes it so each of your CS generates 3 HP. Effectively, it compresses your rotation to get more TV in. Zealotry requires 3 HP to activate, but does not consume the HP used to activate it. For this reason, Zealotry should always be used in conjunction with INQ to ensure you get maximum dps benefit (i.e. all of your zeal goes to TV rather than losing one to refreshing INQ). Zealotry is usually perfectly timed so that as you lose the effect, the next three HP generated will refresh your INQ with little or no time loss. Zealotry should always be used with Avenging Wrath, as well.

Avenging Wrath

AW increases all damage done by 20%, as well as allows you to use HoW as if the target was below 20%, significantly boosting your dps. AW should always be used with Zealotry, and since they have the same cooldown timer, they will always be ready together.

Guardian of Ancient Kings

GoAK is an awesome looking pally/knight/angel that will come out and fight for you when you activate it. Each of your strikes that land during the duration will increase your STR by 1% for a maximum of 20%. Once it expires, it does a minimal amount of dps.

You can use GoAK in one of two ways.

The official stance from EJ on the subject is that you use GoAK exactly 10 seconds before you pop Zeal, Inq, and AW. This will give you the maximum strength benefit to your other cooldowns.

Now for reality.

For us mere mortals, in my opinion, it is better for us to separate GoAK into a second cooldown phase. Phase 1 being Zeal, INQ, and AW. Phase two being GoAK, Trink, Pot (if appropriate).

Why? Two reasons.

First, fights are extremely mobile in Cata, and rarely will you ever have a solid 45 seconds of stand and burn time, leading to loss in usefulness of your cooldowns, penalizing your dps.

Second, and most importantly – threat. Popping everything you have like EJ suggests introduces a MASSIVE dps spike. In some cases as much as double your normal dps. It’s not hard to rip aggro off of your tank during this phase. And remember, even if you are doing awesome dps, a dead DPS does no DPS. Splitting them up allows you to smooth that spike out, and manage aggro much easier. And let you live. To swing your hammer. And do DPS. You get what I mean.

Overall, using this method, I have found that my DPS is much more even and threat is less of an issue for my tanks.

Part 4 – General Suggestions, and Questions!

Find a way to track your buffs, including holy power, in a way that works for you!

Holy power, especially, is so important to your dps, that not tracking it in a way that you can manage is DPS suicide. There are a ton of addons out there that can do it, but I myself prefer Power Auras Classic. It allows me to track not just holy power, but duration left on inquisition as well as other things.

Remember, this is only a guide to get you started.

As with anything, people are different and do things in different ways. This sheet will work for 95% of all you rets. But for some of you, because of latency or setup, or whatever, will make this less than optimal. The only thing that matters is that the boss is down and you have done your part. Being at the top of the DPS meters is just that much sweeter πŸ™‚ If this isn’t working for you, adapt to maximize your own personal play style!

Did I miss anything?

Ask me in the comments.

5 Responses to “L2Ret – The Cataclysmically Large Ret FAQ for 4.1”
  1. ambient says:

    Thanks for the guide! I almost picked up my baby pally alt the other day, before realizing I had no idea how ret worked since Cata. And now I do!

  2. Leorad says:

    Clarification question, and one suggestion.

    Question: I’m not clear on the Inq/Zeal/TV interaction at the beginning of Zeal. Are you saying that after activating Zeal your first CS generated 3 HP should go to Inq? Or that when Zeal is available during an active Inq it should be popped, followed immediately by CS/TV/CS/TV until just before Zeal falls off, at which point you refresh Inq.

    Suggestion: Reforging may sound simple, but it is not. You are absolutely right that no gems should ever go to hit or expertise. However, because of the options available on enchants and from reforging it is virtually impossible (well, unless you are very very good at math and like spreadsheets) to create an optimal combination of enchants and reforges on your character by yourself. Mostly this is because hit and expertise are available as both reforging and enchanting options, and it can be difficult to determine the best way to reach the caps (or in reality to come so close as to be virtually capped) without sacrificing Mastery and Crit. I strongly suggest sending readers to Mr. Robot for this. It is an indispensable tool for making these kinds of decisions, as the server will calculate an infinite number of combination until it finds one that will maximize your most valuable stats while keeping you under hit and expertise caps.

    And one last thing. This was a really great guide. Thanks so much for such a concise explanation. I had actually switched to Holy as my secondary spec due to my difficulty and frustrations with the ret gameplay

    • Firespirit says:

      The Inq, Zeal, TV interaction is this:

      Your first 3 HP, use Zeal. Zeal requires, but does not use those HP. Then hit your INQ, which uses those three HP. As I said in the FAQ, you should also use AW while using Zeal.

      Then resume your rotation.

  3. FeroChampion says:

    Before reading the guide, I was always 3rd or 4th in the meters. Now that I have read it, and tried it, Top even when lagging!! Still leveling this guy through WotLK, but ret is a lot more fun, may have to stop healing for a while…. Great guide!

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