Talent points give your character direction. You especially like healing? Invest more heavily in Holy. You're a masochistic madman and love takin' a clubbin' and keepin' on chuggin'? Throw points in Protection, you'll love it. Going smashy smashy with a big ol' two-hander is your thing? Retribution is your tree.
However, most often you aren't served by just throwing all your points into your tree of choice. A 61-point Retribution talent build is not a good use of resources. Not every talent is useful to every person, and your choices should compliment what you do most. For example: Improved Blessing of Might. For a solo player, this 5-point talent sounds impressive, but is wholly underwhelming. At 5/5 in Imp. BoM, your Blessing of Might and Greater Blessing of Might have their attack power boosted by 20%. Wowwee kazowwee, 20%! That's huge! ... But wait. Blessing of Might at rank 8 (highest rank currently in game) is +220 attack power. 20% of that is only 44 AP. My Karazhan ring has more AP than that! Plus, half the time I'm running around solo doing dailies and stuff, I've got Blessing of Wisdom up... why did I invest in this talent?
That, my friend, is a good question. For the solo player, talents like Improved Blessing of Might, much like Improved Mark of the Wild for Druids, are not very effective. On the flip side of this however, the raider looks at this talent and says "hmmm... 44 extra AP... times 12 physical DPS'ers getting the blessing... whoa, that's a lot of extra AP in the raid!" Many talents in all 3 of the Paladin trees elicit this sort of reaction. Improved Lay on Hands might excite the raider, but it's pretty uninteresting to the PvP'er. Improved Devotion Aura might look good to that dedicated Holy Paladin to give to his tank friend when they group, but the Protection Paladin shuns it in favor of Redoubt. The situation is no different for Retribution Paladins. Some talents are great, but situationally. Here's a breakdown of the Retribution tree and ratings for each so you can make an informed decision when spending those talent points!
Improved Blessing of Might - As discussed above, 44 extra AP at max BoM rank is great for the raider, but underwhelming for the PvP/solo player (who will often have other blessings up besides BoM). RAID (4/5); PvP (1/5); SOLO (1/5)
Benediction - 15% reduction in mana cost for all seals and judgments. Tasty! Very useful for the solo player and the PvP'er, but the raider actually gets less out of this talent, since he would most likely have Sanctified Judgement, which would off-set some of the savings. RAID (3/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (5/5)
Improved Judgement - Lowers your Judgement cooldown from 10 seconds to 8 seconds for 2 points. Yes, please! Judging more often increase damage output and allows for more flexibility with judgment juggling. The solo player won't get as much out of this talent though, since a lot of Ret Paladin solo'ing is just turning on a seal and auto-attacking to save mana. RAID (5/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (3/5)
Improved Seal of the Crusader - Increases the critical strike chance of all attackers against the debuffed target by 1/2/3%. Very powerful in large groups, as the effect is not limited by number of attackers or to just people in your party. As you might have guessed, it isn't quite as powerful for small groups, when you're likely to be judging something else (Justice for PvP, Wisdom for most 5-man instances, nothing for solo). RAID (5/5); PvP (2/5); SOLO (2/5)
Deflection - 1% parry per talent point. Very useful to Tankadins, not quite as much to Ret Paladins. It's decent for the solo player or the PvP'er who's likely to get hit by melee attackers a bunch, but for the raider, if the Ret Paladin is taking a lot of attacks, something went wrong with the pull and he's likely dead anyway. RAID (1/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (4/5)
Vindication - Puts a debuff on your target that reduces all primary attribute stats (strength, agility, stamina, intellect, spirit) by 5/10/15%. It's got a high chance to proc with each melee attack, is a magic debuff, and annoys the snot out of people in PvP. Most bosses in instances are immune to it though, making it fairly useless in raids. RAID (1/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (3/5)
Conviction - If you skip this talent and plan on going farther down the tree, you don't have an understanding of how Ret Paladins work. It's a requirement for Vengeance later on, and melee crits are yummy. RAID (5/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (5/5)
Seal of Command - Again, an essential Retribution talent, even for Hordies with their Seal of Blood cheating. Skip it and I'd hunt you down and make you write "I will not bubble-hearth out of an instance" in your guild chat 100 times and make your guild hate you. Don't think I won't do it. RAID (5/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (5/5)
Pursuit of Justice - This is a hot topic talent. Some never leave home without it, and some think it's a waste. Here's the skinny: putting less than the maximum 3 points in this talent is generally a waste, since you can get basically the same functionality from 2/3 as you can from a Cat's Switfness, Boar's Speed, or Minor Run Speed enchant to your boots or a run speed meta gem. You can emulate the mounted speed increase with Mithril Spurs and a riding glove enchant, or just wait 'til you have Crusader Aura and forget about all that anyway. However, with 3/3 in this talent, you can get 15% increased run speed all the time, which is matched only by Mutilate Rogues who talent into Fleet Footed. This talent can either shine or be a waste, depending on your play-style and your preferences. I personally love it for Retribution - the quicker you get to your target, the quicker it dies. And for raiding, the quicker you can hop out of environmental hazards and AoE's, the longer you live! RAID (4/5); PvP (4/5); SOLO (3/5)
Eye for an Eye - This is strictly a PvP talent. Don't believe what other people tell you, you are not at risk of most NPC monsters critting you with spells. RAID (0/5); PvP (4/5); SOLO (2/5)
Two-handed Weapon Specialization - 2/4/6% damage increase while wielding a two-hander. 3 points nets you a decent chunk of damage, and you're using a 2H weapon anyway... you are a Retribution Paladin, after all. RAID (5/5); PvP (4/5); SOLO (4/5)
Sanctity Aura - One of the defining talents of the tree, 10% increase to all holy damage sources. This boosts your Judgement of Command, Seal of Command, Consecration, Exorcism, and Holy Wrath. Recognize any spells you use often? Good. Take it. RAID (5/5); PvP (4/5); SOLO (5/5)
Improved Sanctity Aura - 2 points nets you a 2% increase to all damage sources for you and your party while under the effects of Sanctity Aura. Like I said before, small percentages add up over time. Great for raiding, decent for PvP and solo (but you can probably find other places for the points). RAID (5/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (3/5)
Vengeance - 5/5 in this talent nets you a stacking damage increase whenever you crit, which caps at 15%. Another "skip it and I'll find and murder your hamster" talent. RAID (5/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (5/5)
Sanctified Seals - makes your Seals undispellable and ups your crit. Solid talent, useful all around but the undispellable part makes it essential for Ret PvP. RAID (5/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (5/5)
Divine Purpose - does basically the same thing as the Resilience stat does, except only for physical attacks. Does not stack with Resilience past the Resilience cap (25% reduction), and you usually shouldn't have the points for it. Might help a tiny bit for solo'ists and PvP'ers who are light on PvP gear. RAID (1/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (3/5)
Fanaticism - ups your Judgment crit chance and reduces your threat. Essential for grouping, useful elsewhere. RAID (5/5); PvP (3/5); SOLO (4/5)
Crusader Strike - I'd like to reiterate my previous statements about public humiliation and personal threats here. Don't go this far down the tree without taking the defining ability. RAID (5/5); PvP (5/5); SOLO (5/5)
Next time, I'll go through the relavent Protection and Holy talents. Until then, merry hunting!