Against Your Better Judgement: A Guide to Judging

Judgements: they’re not just for Retribution paladins any more.

There’s a fair amount of misinformation and misunderstanding floating around when it comes to paladin Judgements, and the issue of “who should Judge? when? why?” is something I’ve seen come up in discussion in a number of places recently, so: here’s a guide. First up is the primer; if you know the basics, skip to the end for the last three sections.

Three Key Facts

  1. You have to have a Seal spell currently active before you can cast a Judgement.
  2. There are three Judgement spell options, which share the same cooldown: Judgement of Light, Judgement of Wisdom and Judgement of Justice.
  3. Using a Judgement spell has three effects: damage, a debuff on the target, and a buff to you (and possibly others).


Casting a Judgement on a mob causes some amount of direct damage to it. This varies depending on which Seal you have active:

The damage from Judging each seal scales differently with talents and stats; going into detail is outside the scope of this guide.

Debuffing the Target

The Judgement spells all apply a different debuff to the target. You generally can’t stack more than one debuff of each type on a single target, regardless of how many paladins are judging – this has not always been the case, but that’s usually due to bugs. Each debuff lasts 20 seconds, so a paladin will need to keep re-judging to keep the debuff up.

Judgement of Light applies a debuff to the target which has a chance to restore health to anyone who hits the target. This healing is attributed to the paladin who applied the judgement, and confers zero threat.

The amount of healing it gives scales with the gear of the judging paladin; the amount is calculated by (0.18 * AP) + (0.18 * SP). Therefore, if you’re fighting with multiple paladins, this should be applied by the people with the highest combined attack power and spellpower.

Judgement of Wisdom applies a debuff to the target which has a chance to restore mana to anyone who hits the target. This is a flat amount; 2% of the attacker’s base mana, so it doesn’t scale with the paladin’s gear, the attacker’s gear, or anyone else’s.

Judgement of Justice applies a debuff that stops the target from fleeing, and restricts their movement speed.

Used against mobs, this spell will stop them from running away at low health if they would normally do that. Used against players, this spell restricts people to 100% speed – ie, standard running speed. It nullifies speed increases from mounts, gear (ie enchants and gems), skills (like Dash/Sprint) or talents (like Pursuit of Justice or Unholy Aura). PvP trinkets will remove this effect, but druid shapeshifting won’t – for obvious reasons, this is a popular judgement in PvP, especially in arenas.

Buffing You

Each paladin talent tree has a talent that synergises with the use of your Judgement spells; the effects of these are very different, depending on your spec, but all are useful.

Holy paladins have the Judgements of the Pure talent, which increases their Haste by 15% for one minute after using a Judgement. This is very useful for healing; you only need to judge once a minute to keep this buff up, and the Haste can make a big difference in your healing output.

Protection paladins have the Judgements of the Just talent, which is technically a further debuff to the Judgement target: it reduces the target’s melee attack speed by 20%. This is a huge bonus when fighting opponents that do a lot of physical damage (like, say, most raid bosses); it’s a lot of incoming damage that the tank no longer has to soak or avoid, a lot of damage that the healers no longer have to heal.

Retribution paladins have the Judgements of the Wise talent, which restores 15% of their base mana immediately, and grants the Replenishment mana restoration buff to the raid. This talent makes Retribution paladins very useful to most raid groups.

(In addition, Retribution paladins and many Holy paladins also have the Heart of the Crusader talent, which applies an extra debuff to the target giving all attacks against it an extra 3% critical strike chance.)

So Who Judges What?

Paladins are pretty popular these days, which means many (I dare say most) raid groups will have more than one – which means you should be sharing the Judgement duties around, or else people are going to overwrite each other and waste useful abilities.

Judgement of Light is currently more useful than Judgement of Wisdom, because mana isn’t a problem for most people in current content. That may change – is likely to, in fact – in Ulduar, so raid groups in the future will need to revisit this issue. But for now, if you’ve only got one paladin, Judgement of Light is more useful than Judgement of Wisdom. And Judgement of Justice is useful only for the sake of triggering your talents; the debuff it confers doesn’t do anything useful.

So, in current content: Light > Wisdom > Justice.

Who judges which?

  • Judgement of Light scales equally with Spellpower and Attack Power. Ret paladins should be applying this if they’re present, as a Retribution Paladin’s AP + SP total will be higher than that of other specs. Protection paladins are next on the list; Holy paladins should only be applying this if there are no other paladin specs in the raid.
  • If there is a Protection paladin in the raid, they should not have their judgements overwritten, except by another Prot paladin – this is important, in order to keep Judgements of the Just active.
  • Holy paladins can apply whatever Judgement isn’t already claimed by another spec, as they only need to judge once a minute for Judgements of the Pure; their judgement doesn’t have to stay up.

This all leads to:

The Bottom Line

If your raid has:

  • Ret, Prot and Holy: Ret on Judgement of Light, Prot on Judgement of Wisdom, Holy on Judgement of Justice.
  • Ret and Prot: Ret on Judgement of Light, Prot on Judgement of Wisdom.
  • Ret and Holy: Ret on Judgement of Light, Holy on Judgement of Wisdom.
  • Prot and Holy: Prot on Judgement of Light, Holy on Judgement of Wisdom.
  • If all your group’s paladins are of the same spec, it doesn’t really matter who judges what. The best-geared paladin should judge Light, as it scales with gear, but it doesn’t really matter.

… But What About The Meters?!

There are holy paladins out there who will claim they should be judging Light so they get credit for all that healing done on the meters. There are raid leaders out there who look at healing meters and get angry if the Retribution paladin is nearly outhealing the Holy paladin.

To both of you, I say: fie on you! Healing is not a competition; the raid group is a team. Do you really want to give bad assignments that waste peoples’ potential, just so the meters look “right”?

If you’re that concerned about the meters, log the raid with WoW Webstats (aka WWS), look at the report afterwards, and ignore the amounts for Judgement of Light. Don’t let Meter Worry (or Meter Pride) goad you into encouraging the use of inappropriate Judgements, when in the right hands Judgements are powerful tools for your raid.

32 thoughts on “Against Your Better Judgement: A Guide to Judging”

  1. Nice run down on it all. Its funny how many people that still ask about these thing. And about the meters, now thats a classic. We are soon about to do the undying achivement, and im gonna call people to turn off there E-peen meters for that run. As they normally screw up more than, they do good.

    People should not judge each other on them, way to many do now a days. WWS is a good tool to judge how you can improve, E-peen meters are not.

    Once again a nice read, added to my blog roll as well. As you keep pushing good post’s. Keep em coming.

  2. As a Retribution Paladin, I’ve always judged Wisdom to boost the mana regen. Even though mana isn’t a huge issue anymore, it still requires some managing. And especially in fights where you’re spamming everything you have and hardly get any SA mana return (Patchwerk for instance) it’s nice to have a bit of extra mana regen.

    Having said that though, I was not aware of the scaling of Light (/shame), so I’ll definately try it out and let that Holy Paladin judge Wisdom instead.

  3. Fie on you? Be serious. While technically you might be correct about judgement of light most of us in the real world deal with raid leaders who know almost nothing about the paladin class, often don’t like Paladins and who are not close followers of paladin issues. Having Ret Judgement of Light outheal Holy is a plain game design error by Blizzard. It makes absolutey no sense in the context of the class roles. Who can blame Holy Paladins, who in weak content with too many healers, are often pushed to the bottom of effective healing by HoTs AOE and sniping for being disturbed that they are being outhealed by Ret paladins. You are a Guild Leader who doesn’t likely have to answer to any of these pressures and you should be grateful.

  4. I am 1 out for 4 holy paladins in my guild and only 2 of the others judge but I believe not enough because sometimes a ret pally outheals them and it is all due to JoL. So holy pallies shouldn’t overestimate the power of judging! I know I always try to judge as often as I can.

  5. In that context I would say that saying “healing is not a competition” sounds like someone who doesn’t have to worry about a raid invite.

  6. PS I also raid with like 7 paladins in group >.< the prot pally judges wisdom but the rest of us tend to judge light, just not enough…

  7. The problem with having your holy paladins judge wisdom, is that they wont be focused on keeping 100% up time. If as a ret paladin, you really want the JoW to be up 100% on your target, you better judge it yourself. They holy paladin only ‘needs’ to judge every 60 seconds.

    Meanwhile, when people care about meters, the Holy paladin has a very strong incentive to keep JoL up 100% on any aoe damage…

    How does the prot paladin scenarios take in to acount the possibility that the prot paladin is not the MT?

  8. @doshei – I agree that having JoL scale equally with AP and SP seems counterintuitive; however, it’s all we’ve got to work with.
    As for your problems with having to use healing meters to justify a raid spot, I would suggest
    a) that any guild that does that should certainly be using WWS rather than just Recount, and WWS makes it really easy to see the healing has just come from JoL,
    b) that you can always help inform your guild & raid leader about judgement mechanics; a sensible raid leader is always going to be glad of new information,
    c) the recruitment market heavily favours players over guilds at the moment; there are a ton of great guilds on almost every server, just clamoring for players. If your raid leader is biased against your class, shallow enough to take the meters at face value, and stubbornly ignorant of mechanics they should know, then I would suggest you can probably do better.

  9. @Monte – That’s a fair point about rets wanting 100% wisdom uptime. I suspect in that case, it may be better for a raid group to swap them around (although with all the mana regen flying around at the moment, I hadn’t realised rets were hurting badly enough to need 100% JoWis uptime…)
    As for the prot pally scenario, I’m assuming there that they’re either tanking, or in melee with the target. I know many prot pallies tend to off-heal rather than off-DPS, but in current content the extra healers are usually pretty superfluous. And if the prot pally is tanking, but assigned to a different mob, then they’re not on the target and they’re effectively out of the equation anyway, so it’s just like the “Ret + Holy” scenario in that case.

  10. @Siha – I really don’t have experaince as a ret pally, so I’m not sure if they are tight on mana or not, so emphesis should be on the if.
    – Also, I don’t know about other servers, but atleast on mine there are maybe 6-8 good guilds if your serious about raiding. There are many other guilds that are either poorly led, or carrying too much deadweight to even do current content. Those 8 good guilds have only limited openings as you can imagine. So the prospects for leaving are actually rather limited. Not to say your raid leader shouldn’t listen, and most of the raid leaders in the good guilds will, but I think the lateral mobility is very limited.

  11. My only concession to your guide is that Ret paladins don’t receive mana through Spiritual Atunement if they themselves judge Light, meaning lower mana regen for them and more use of Seal of the Martyr (so they can grab a heal and regen some mana), which means healers not focusing on the important targets. At least that’s what our ret paladins tend to do.

    And Monte’s comment that a Holy Paladin will not keep judgement of wisdom up is a little odd, more a reflection of a bad player than a generalisation about paladins.

  12. @Siha:

    I wasn’t talking about my guild in particular, my guild is generally quite excellent, but I see a lot of guilds and raid leaders in action and often see a problem. Yes it is easy to deduct JoL but how many of the people I am referring to will do that? The smart ones will but they aren’t the problem. In the average guild run by average people who can blame a player for being concerned about how he looks on the meters. Being able to ignore the meters is a luxury that some have but not all. It’s not always stupidity or epeen on the part of the player is my point.

  13. For someone who knows very little about end-game paladin mechanics, this post was really informative… Thanks for breaking it down so even a resto drood could figure it out ^^

  14. @ Vine – Seal of the Martyr / Seal of Blood should always be the active seal as Ret, except in fights with heavy raid-wide damage (Prince being the most well-known example). It’s not a sneaky way to get mana back, nor some kind of healer exploitation, it’s an intended mechanic.

    @ Siha – It’s not that Ret mana regen is dramatic. There’s plenty of ways to get mana back. But the 100% JoW uptime does help a lot. It’s like Shield Wall for Warriors and Shadowform for Shadow Priests. You don’t necessarily need it, but it makes your job SO much easier. And if you can do it the easy way, why do it the hard way? There’s plenty of other things to worry about during a fight.

  15. I just re-rolled a paladin again (the other 3 attempts got derailed for one reason or another – never got past level 20), and this really helps clarify some of the confusion I had about the whole judgements/seals system. :)

  16. @Vime & Vaadren:

    This article is mostly about Judgements and Shia said as much early on.

    As others have said, SoB/M helps with DPS, but if the fight is a troubling one for your healers, please don’t give them somebody else to worry about.

  17. I could not agree more. People lose sight of the group working together to beat an encounter in favor of who’s got the biggest DPS or the most healing. While I agree that damage meters can give a slight indication of where you are, and where you should be, judging players on that alone is ludicrous! My main is Warlock, and if an encounter would be easier with Curse of Weakness, then I sacrifice some DPS for that. In more a contextual example, so what if a Retribution Paladin heals more on a meter than a Holy Paladin? It saddens me to see groups that feel they must compete with each other just so they can have the largest number on a fallible mod that, in the end, means nothing to anyone but them. I am lucky in that my guild understands this. We use damage meters, and we discuss the results, but we never judge anyone’s performance on that alone. Many factors contribute to success and failure. Grow up and realize that the size of your epeen doesn’t really matter to anyone else. Great article by the way.. :)

  18. In the context of 25-man raiding:

    I have to agree with the sentiment that JoW is probably better for a raiding Ret paladin to use than JoL. I’m the ret pally for our raiding guild and there are a few reasons why I believe this is so:

    1) The healing from Judgement of Light procs don’t cause Spiritual Attunement Mana returns (yay Seal of the Martyr). When I do use JoL over JoW (Sapphiron is a great example of when I do use it), I find myself going out of mana to a much greater degree than otherwise because a lot of my healing is coming from this source. This seriously gimps my DPS, especially near the end of the fight when I need to be tossing out Hammers of Wrath left and right.

    2) Generally not needed (with current content). A lot of the JoL heals I see are overheals to a greater degree than the Holy Pally’s healing. I really think it’s a situational Judgement, and I recommend the default should be JoW. I think JoW does more for “boss-downing-throughput” by sustaining DPS then the overhealing of JoL does by keeping people alive, especially in end-game content.

    Great blog,

  19. An important point that doesn’t seem to have been metioned is threat generation for prot paladins. Any healing your character does also generates threat (just like damage) so if you are main tanking as Prot I would strongly recommend using JoL.

  20. Last I checked, judgement of light didn’t take into account the spellpower granted by sheath of light, so it’s better for a protection paladin to judge light.

  21. @Zaen – don’t forget that many guilds have more than one ret paladin, which means that in those cases, the ret pallies are still getting SA mana replenisment when the other rets’ judgements are up.
    @Tankadin – as the post says, heals from JoL confer zero threat. (It did used to have a threat component, but that was removed in patch 3.0.8.)
    @Miri – Interesting, I’ve not seen that referenced before. Can you provide a source on that? I’d like to read up on that.

  22. Judgements are essential for all specs, including holy. As guild leader of a high end guild that is one thing that I look for in holy paladin applicants – that they know when and what to judge depending on class makeup and boss fight. It can make a huge difference to healing/mana longevity of a group.
    Samownall – WoW Blog

  23. I don’t have a reputable source, but sheath’s spellpower doesn’t apply to Judgement of Light heals, nor Sacred Shield. It`d be best to just test yourself by speccing ret and keeping points out of sheath, smack a dummy with JoL up and then put points in, see if your heals go up.

  24. Thanks for the excellent post on judging =) I posted a link in my guild forums and a fellow guild mate posted a follow up that got me thinking… (His reply “Just a little addition with the upcoming 3.1 patch, prot paladins will have divine plea up 100% of the time making their judgement of light heal for 50% less, so i would imagine prot paladin would become the last paladin that should use JoL.”)

    Do we know if Divine plea affects JoL / Refreshed JoL?

    I remember running H VH (only pally in the group) the other day and wondering the same thing as the numbers weren’t all that different with Divine Plea up. It was a tiny bit lower (like maybe 30-50 per tick) but didn’t feel like 50% difference.

  25. I liked this article :)
    As a prot pallie i usually ask the Retribution/Holy who keeps light/wisdom up and simply “demand” nobody but prot pallies judge the other one.
    I find it that, if prot/ret use light and i use wisdom works best in raids, while in 5 man … its mostly random, depending on how many paladins are there, etc !
    It is shocking how many paladins DONT JUDGE AT ALL (i know it sounds strange) or know little to nothing about judgements.
    Thank you for a very well written post i can refer them to :)

  26. @ Siha . . .

    Yes, in 25 man raiding, if you have more than one ret pally or a prot pally Judging Wis . . . yes, JoL ftw!

    Otherwise, JoW > JoL.

  27. I wanted to thank you a lot for this article. It is so true that it should go without question, but clearly the comments and the overall community show it is not the case.
    Blizzard has made a lot of errors on the healing paladin design, concerning how it shows in the “meters”, exactly as for the discipline priest.
    A lot of leaders will look at the healing meters, see the paladin very low (because of all what was explained by doshei), even more they could look at the overhealing and see us “excelling” there …

    I’m also following the idea that, if you’re leader isn’t competent enough to understand the design of the paladin when you explain it to him/her. Then just change guild. Good guilds are plenty and a competent healer is always a good addition to a guild.

    The only point I see really relevant, and it was pointed by several people, is that a holy paladin judging wisdom will probably not keep it up as often as a retribution paladin (or protection paladin).
    We should all judge it at least once each minute to keep Judgements of the Pure up. But it’s not as obvious to keep it up each 20s. I would advise the use of an add-on to track the duration of judgement of wisdom and pay attention to it. One gcd each 20s is rarely a problem.

    Thank you again for this great post, I linked it on my blog :)

  28. In 3.1 holy palas won´t be able to judge justice any more since its range will be 10 yards again : ( So we will have to override the rets JoL, at least every minute.

  29. If you have to overwrite, overwrite Wisdom. Range will still be 40 yards and one wisdom is as good as another.

  30. Yes, but then the MT will have to Judge Justice, since he wants to keep JotJ up…

    And it means you’ll have to make sure you keep the Wisdom uptime at 100% if you can.

  31. you should note that if a holy pally has beacon of light on the tank, and is running JoL, all the procs will heal the tank.

  32. Hi, I didn’t really see anyone else mention this in the comments and didn’t see it in your article, but ret and holy paladins(only ret if both are present) should judge light if there is a prot pally in the raid/group because mana will be returned from the healing done by the judgement of light debuff via spiritual attunement and prot pally’s should judge wisdom for more mana regen.

    Plus, if you have a melee heavy group they will receieve healing from judgement of light making for a sort of kind of effective group healing. If the group is heavy on ranged/caster dps then it might be better to drop judgement of wisdom since they still regen mana(at least from what I’ve noticed. I could be wrong.) from attacking a target with the judgement of wisdom debuff but they won’t from judgement of light for some arbitrary reason.

    Also, I’d like to add that I recently respecced from ret to holy and I used many of the guides in your blog to help me gear and learn about my spells. Keep up the good work!

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