Retribution paladin PvP Finally, we have retribution, which is a favored spec for many paladins in PvP despite its ups and downs throughout the game's five-year history. Among the three trees, retribution got the short end of the stick as far as survivability is concerned, and that's not a good thing. There's less mitigation and healing than either of the other two trees, although there's a bit more utility. The focus has shifted greatly to just dealing damage, and retribution playstyle should be concerned about beating down on opponents more than ever.
- Eye for an Eye If you're not going to be mitigating damage, you might as well be dealing some pain. This talent is still situational, but the 30 percent damage return is pretty hefty. If anything, think of it as something to spite casters who kite you to your doom.
- Improved Judgement and Long Arm of the Law With base Judgement now down to 8 seconds from 10, this talent was reworked to improve Judgement range to 30 yards -- amazing for paladins, who have historically been gimped at long range. The bad news is that the new seal and judgement system means you can't apply the Seal of Justice speed limit on opponents from a distance with a judgement. You'll need to hit your opponent with a melee attack to apply the speed-limiting effect. Blizzard tried to make up for this with Long Arm of the Law, which gives a speed boost when you cast Judgement on opponents 15 yards away or farther, but it's just not the same. You'll no longer be able to slow mounted opponents to a crawl with a ranged judgement, and a 45 percent speed boost just isn't enough to catch up with a mounted enemy tearing away at full speed. However, this is the gap closer retribution has been pining for for years, which means a mandatory four-point investment for PvP.
- Guardian's Favor While other classes have snares, Blizzard went the other way with paladins. You don't have any true snares, but you have tools to break them and get a little speed boost on the side. The cooldown reduction to Hand of Protection is cool, but you really want this for the buff to Hand of Freedom, which brings the duration to 10 seconds. It's another non-negotiable talent, considering you no longer have the ability to remove magical snares through Cleanse ... at least in 4.0.1. Things get better in Cataclysm, so read on.
- Pursuit of Justice Having a passive speed boost in PvP is pretty mandatory, so you'll have to invest in Pursuit of Justice. The good news is that the developers tacked on a proc that's specifically tailored for PvP use, giving you a holy power charge when you get struck by a stun, fear, or immobilize effect. That's great, because you'll need all the holy power you can get so you can cast Word of Glory on yourself when you get stuck in that situation.
- The Art of War What did I say were the two magic words in PvP? Instant and free? Well, this talent can proc an instant, free, and double-damage Exorcism, so you simply have to pick it up. The downside is that it only procs off auto-attacks, which means there are fewer chances for it to proc. In the mobile environment of PvP, you rely more on your specials than your auto-attacks, so the chances of proccing this are significantly lower. It's worth the three points, anyway, because instant is instant, and free is free.
- Divine Storm While technically not a PvP talent and nearly unusable because of its holy power requirement, Divine Storm has a healing component that makes it a decent utility spell. In the battlegrounds where melee can get frenetic and massed, a Divine Storm can provide a decent health boost while delivering some AoE damage. The impending change in Cataclysm will also mean you'll see a lot more of that wonderful animation again soon.
- Rebuke Retribution PvP's saving grace, Rebuke finally gives retadins that much-needed spell interrupt. This talent, above all else, makes retribution PvP viable despite its kiteability and lower overall survivability. If you find yourself mana-starved in the new environment, consider getting Glyph of Rebuke (major), which makes the spell free. This spell finally grants you a fighting chance against healers, who simply used to laugh off retribution damage. Excuse me a moment as I wipe these tears of joy from my eyes.
- Sanctified Wrath OK, so you're just not going to be as resilient as a holy or protection paladin. On the other hand, you can really pour on some hurt. That's what you're supposed to do. That's what you're designed to do. That's what the developers want you to do, even in PvP. That's what Sanctified Wrath is for -- to pour on the hurt. This means you're supposed to pop Avenging Wrath as often as possible and try to blow people up with an unrelenting spam of Hammer of Wrath. Consider using the Glyph of Hammer of Wrath (major) to save precious mana. While significantly more useful in PvE encounters, this should let you save your mana for more important things ... like healing your fragile butt when the chips are down.
- Selfless Healer This is an odd talent that I'm putting up for consideration because some people just like to assist heal. It runs completely counter to the retribution playstyle that the tree seems to dictate, but this talent should let you play a better support role especially coupled with other talents such as Protector of the Innocent and Last Word. Both talents boost Selfless Healer into a hybrid support and survivability talent that still isn't as awesome as it should be but gives retribution PvP another dimension.
- Repentance Excellent ranged crowd control spell whose only downside is its disappointingly long cooldown. It's an incapacitate effect that breaks on damage but still retains its 1-minute cooldown, which means if it breaks early, it can't be reapplied soon enough. Still, it's crowd control, so don't complain.
- Acts of Sacrifice This spell is a simple cooldown and mana cost reduction in 4.0.1 but becomes a phenomenal PvP talent in Cataclysm because it adds the following line to its effects: "In addition, your Cleanse will remove one movement impairing effect if cast on yourself." This means that retribution will be incredibly difficult to kite with this talent paired with a gap closer in Long Arm of the Law.
Paladin PvP has become incredibly aggressive with the changes to the holy and retribution trees. Protection has the most conservative playstyle and balances survivability with offense ... a perfect middle ground between the other two specs. I didn't mention it specifically for any tree, but Glyph of Turn Evil (major) is still one of the best PvP glyphs you can apply. The Cataclysm is coming very soon, so enjoy the remaining days of the broken Protector of the Innocent!
Zach delivers your weekly dose of battlegrounds and world PvP in one crazy column. Find out how the Cataclysm talent tree redesign affects PvP, how sub-speccing will work at higher levels in the expansion, and how the new Azeroth will affect world PvP. Visit Blood Sport for the inside line on arena PvP.