Retribution Paladin: A Critical Review of the Dragonflight Talent Tree
design phase over and the tuning phase underway for Dragonflight Talent Trees
, our Retribution Paladin writer Bolas critically reviews the current state of the Retribution Talent Tree as we near Pre-Patch. Join us as we discuss all the Talent changes for Retribution in Dragonflight!
To learn about the best PvE talent builds in Dragonflight for this class, and export these builds into the game, please check out our Holy, Protection, and Retribution Paladin class guides:
Holy Paladin Talent BuildsProtection Paladin Talent BuildsRetribution Paladin Talent Builds
To put it bluntly, Retribution's talent trees are not in a good spot - we've had mostly the same issues for essentially the entirety of Alpha/Beta, there's been few changes made, and even less communication about them. With the "design" phase over and the "tuning" phase underway, it's unfortunately extremely unlikely that many of these glaring issues are addressed before prepatch or launch, so this may serve more as a post about what should be changed in 10.1 rather than before launch.
Before I get into the details about the tree, I want to take a moment to talk about what this article
about. Firstly, it's not about whether or not Ret will be a good spec in Dragonflight. A poorly designed spec can still be tuned to be strong, and a well designed spec can be undertuned and never brought. It could well be that Ret is stuck with an incredibly boring singular talent build for the whole first tier and still do enough damage to be decent, but this doesn't mean that it justifies the poor talent design. Secondly, I've seen a lot of comments on the feedback forums and elsewhere insulting the developers for the talents. This should go without saying, but those kinds of comments are not acceptable anywhere and all criticism in this article is directed towards the systems themselves.
Paladin Class Tree Issues
View on Dragonflight Talent Tree
The Paladin tree is essentially defined by its throughput talents. Here's an abridged breakdown:
After spending 5 points on mandatory throughput nodes or other nodes to access future throughput nodes, there's a few of points left over to allocate how you want before the first gate. Enjoy them, as this is the most you'll get in this tree. Although you do have a choice, there aren't really many options - most of the time you'll take
, and probably just a throwaway point in
, but if you want
you can take those instead. You basically have a default, general purpose path, and can move points out of mobility if necessary, but the degree to which you can customize it is very small. There's only 10 nodes to pick from in this section - compared to 19 for DK, 16 for Warrior, or 20 for Shaman, this is a pretty poor number of options. You also need to take
in order to get a basic function of
, even though
is completely useless in the majority of Raid encounters.
First off, you spend another 10 points on throughput nodes or pathing for them, leaving you with 2 points before you can access the bottom of the tree. Previously, these two points were effectively locked into
, but since
is now removed from the class tree, you'll just put them somewhere else useful.
are probably the most useful options, but you can also take
if it's going to be useful. Again, although you end up with a couple of points left to spend, it's a very small number compared to other class trees, and your options for spending them are extremely limited - you can choose to either take
or not, and otherwise just pick a couple of generic healing nodes. Even if you wanted to pick something else than healing, the option to just doesn't exist in the tree. You're also again forced to pick an often useless utility node in raids, either
, in order to take a large throughput increase.
Every single point you spend here is dedicated to throughput. You essentially only have two choices in this entire section:
Pick 3 out of 4 of
If you picked
, pick between
The capstone abilities here are cool and powerful, but when it comes down to choice, there still isn't any - every capstone is a strong DPS trait but you can take all of them anyway. The choice nodes are also not even close to a choice:
has not ever been close to competitive with
, and hardcasting
seems pointless when you get very high uptime from
What Needs to Change?
The Paladin tree basically just needs a complete rework at this point. I can't see a way for this tree to be salvaged other than removing about half the talents and adding twice as many back in, which is absolutely unrealistic at this stage of development. Initially, it seemed like it might just be a problem with connecting nodes not allowing you to move laterally through the tree, but after the one pathing iteration it's become clear that there just aren't enough nodes in the tree to begin with to even give you choices. There's just so many really bad nodes, like
, or even the random damage procs like
, that are just complete filler that you end up required to put your points into to maximize your damage, and when the total number of nodes in the tree is already low you don't end up with any real choices to make. You also have to put points into almost all of your basic abilities like
instead of getting them baseline like many other class trees.
The only pieces of feedback I can think of that would improve the Paladin tree that isn't adding completely new talents is to buff
and remove the
. It really sucks to have your mobility get significantly worse from one expansion to the next, especially as one of the classes with the most limited mobility in the game to begin with. With
providing a consistent damage increase now, assuming that Ret is tuned around having this bonus, you're never going to have a Ret in the raid for
Retribution Tree Issues
View on Dragonflight Talent Tree
Compared to the Paladin tree, the Retribution tree has far fewer issues. You're likely to have interesting decisions in almost every part of the tree, bar the top section where your first 8 points are basically locked in no matter what. Once you start filling out the tree you end up with a lot of close choices that you could change depending on the situation, which is exactly the type of tree you want to see in Dragonflight. That said, there are still some issues which I want to highlight.
Ideally, utility nodes should just exist in the class tree and not the spec ones. I think a version of
could exist that works differently enough for Holy and Ret/Prot that it's balanced, and I don't think there would be any problem giving the other specs access to
size buffing talents or
. As it stands, the utility talents in the Ret tree block your entire access to the bottom section, requiring you to put at least one point into them to progress. The problems that arise are twofold: firstly, you don't end up actually choosing utility based on the situation, you just pick whichever node gives you the best choice for the paths that are locked behind it, regardless of how useful the utility ability is itself. In every case this is either
, since they both let you take
as well as the other talent on their side. Secondly, the structure of the tree means that if you want to pick both
, you need to waste an extra talent point on a non-throughput ability to get access to both "sides" of the bottom section. These restrictions all suck, but seem unlikely to get changed at this point.
Pathing Non Sequiturs
This has mostly arisen due to a few last minute swaps of ability locations, but there's quite a few sections where the way the talent choices flow really don't seem to make sense at all. Here's a few examples:
, an ability primarily useful on cleave/AoE, is required to take
, an ability that only works on single target.
, an ability that procs off
casts, is nestled among abilities that all buff
, and nowhere near any of the other abilities that work with
, one of your best talents for AoE, is on the opposite side of the tree to all your other AoE oriented talents like
Fortunately it's fairly easy to get access to pretty much any part of the tree due to the excellent pathing structure, so this doesn't really have a negative impact on whether you can actually take the abilities, but it's certainly going to be confusing for many players and goes against the design of pretty much every other spec tree in the game.
There's some really fantastic new talents in the tree like
, and then there's all of the boring flat % damage increases.
, even old abilities like
that players might remember fondly, but are honestly pretty boring as talents. I'm not sure if Ret is the only spec with a flat stat increase node in its spec tree, or just one of an endangered species, but I do know that
is not a fun or interesting talent in the slightest. I don't expect every talent you pick to massively alter your rotation, but I think there's some more room for middleground than just "talents that you could build your whole character around" and "talents that you wouldn't even notice not existing".
What Needs to Change?
To start with, here's some fairly straightforward tuning changes I'd like to see:
) to be competitive talents.
some axis or situation where it's competitive with or better than
's proc rate. It's a really unfun talent to play with when it never procs.
so that it isn't permanently taken on single target (unless that's the intention for this talent?).
so that it doesn't do more damage than
A bug fix rather than a tuning change, but currently
doesn't work with
Past that, I think the tree is structurally quite good, but could use some small positioning adjustments to make more sense with how talents path to each other. If it gets another look later on in the expansion, I'd like to see some of the many "boring" stat or damage % nodes removed for some with more interesting interactions and the utility nodes moved to the class tree.
From Shadowlands to Dragonflight
In my last article, I said that I thought Ret would be in a marginally better state in Dragonflight than Shadowlands due to
. Unfortunately since then it's been removed, along with my remaining optimism. Ret is at best on par, and by most metrics worse in raids than it was in Shadowlands. Here's some examples:
In Shadowlands, you have 2 charges of
and up to 6.3s duration. You also have
, which gives
up to an 11% speed increase.
In Dragonflight, you have 2 charges of
and up to 4s duration.
In Shadowlands, you have
were one of the melee most likely to die in every raid
In Dragonflight, you have
, or you can choose a version of
with a 2 minute cooldown, that will require you to lose damage to use and will likely be a worse defensive than
in the vast majority of situations.
In Shadowlands, you brought
if you somehow didn't have a Holy Paladin, and competed for a raid spot against Warrior with
and a fantastic raid CD in
, Monk with
, Demon Hunter with
and a decent raid CD in
, DK with
, Enhancement with
, and the other melee that were in a similar boat as you - Rogue, Survival, and Feral.
In Dragonflight, all of that is still true, except now Druid and Rogue also have mandatory raid buffs, and you lose a significant amount of damage by using
as you lose the damage procs from
I don't think any of these issues are big enough to make Ret an actively bad spec to play for most guilds, but I can't imagine why a competitively minded guild would ever want to bring a Ret to a fight as it is unless their damage is insanely overtuned, and the choices made at the top end always trickle down throughout the rest of the playerbase.
From a Mythic+ point of view, the situation is a lot less dire. Paladin utility like
, and now
is generally a lot more useful and you don't already automatically have another Paladin in your group, and although I expect Ret to be worse in Raids than it is now, I think it's probably slightly better in Mythic+ than it was in Shadowlands. That said, surviving is still a problem in keys, so unless Ret happens to do a ton of AoE damage I doubt it'll be much more popular than it is now.
Interested in playing Retribution Paladin now? Check our out live guide for this spec!
Retribution Paladin Guide
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