This is an in-progress look at tanking with Paladins, as of WotLK patch 3.3.?. This is from the perspective of an Alliance Human. There may be a few, minor, differences in names (but not functions) for Horde players.
Protection tree abilities Edit
A Paladin tank must focus on the Protection talent tree. You’re looking for things that reduce the damage you take, and increase the threat/aggro you generate.
Many of the abilities in the Protection tree are obvious in their application, but a few may benefit from explanation:
- : There will be times when a fight is very close. Being able to survive being killed like this can often make the difference between beating a boss and wiping.
- : Since the majority of your threat comes from holy spell damage, boosting your spell power boosts your threat. from the first level of the tree goes quite nicely with this.
Retribution tree abilities Edit
The Retribution talent tree offers some very useful abilities, including a couple “must haves”:
- , by increasing your movement speed, can give you the edge on getting to mobs in time to grab initial threat on them, or to recover aggro when they go after a team-mate. As a tank, you always want to be the first one into the fray, and this ability is your key to doing that.
Getting and holding threat Edit
Given that one of the tank’s primary tasks is keeping threat/aggro off of their team-mates, this is where the most attention needs to be put.
- is the starting point. It increases all of the threat you generate from holy damage by 80%. As a Paladin tank, you must always, always, always, have this on. Pay particular attention after resurrecting or switching specs (if dual-spec) as you will need to reactivate it. As an added bonus, , from the Protection tree, gives you 6% damage reduction.
- , which comes from the Retribution talent tree, makes it much easier to build and hold threat against multiple mobs. Unless you are facing a single mob (such as a boss who has no adds), this is usually the better choice over (or the Horde equivalent).
- is useful for lowering the threat of a team-mate. Be careful to not accidently cast this on yourself. I’ve set up a macro that uses it on whoever I’ve set as my focus (which I always set to my healer at the beginning of a run):
#showtooltip Hand of Salvation /cast [target=focus] Hand of Salvation
- : Pretty straight forward ability for recovering aggro if a team-mate has attracted attention from multiple mobs.
Pulling mobs Edit
Pulling a group of mobs Edit
When not being rushed by my team-mates, I like to start a pull with , immediately followed by (ideally on one of the mobs other than your first target, if there are more than 3 mobs in the group). Then, as quickly as possible (when the mobs are close at hand) , and go into rotation
Pulling a single mob Edit
Again, I like to start with . Then immediately go to my rotation, keeping handy in case I somehow lose aggro during the fight.
Damage avoidance and mitigation Edit
- should always be up, given that it increases your chance to block (for mitigation) and adds holy damage (for threat).
- : I have a shameful admission to make. For a long time (even after I reached 80) I overlooked this ability. Now that I have noticed it, I try to keep it up on myself 100% of the time while tanking. It doesn’t do all that much damage reduction (about 600 per minute), but every bit helps and its duration means you can cast it before a fight and have it last for most fights (you will likely need to recast it at some point during a boss fight).
- is normally the only judgement you will use. If my health is fine and the healer isn’t being stressed, I may temporarily switch to if my mana is dropping. One of the nice things about Judgement of Light is that it can heal everybody attacking the mob and not just you.
- : Keep an eye on your debuffs — there’s a chance your healer may be too busy or unable to dispell them. If you have an opportunity in your rotation, throw this in to help keep the damage on you down.
- is a much better choice than because Divine Shield basically cuts your threat output in half, endangering the rest of your party. The only time to use Divine Shield as a tank is when you are the last one left alive in your party.
- is the last act of desperation in a fight, such as when your healer is down or out of mana. Given the 15 minute cooldown, it’s usually best to save this for boss fights if you can.
Reducing your team-mates’ damage Edit
- makes it even easier for your healer to focus their heals on you and not have to do much, if any, heals for the rest of your party. Not as useful when your healer does more group heals (such as ), but still worth keeping up.
- is kind of an odd one, in my view. Generally this should be covered by Divine Sacrifice. If the situation gets to the point where you would need this, you are failing in your job of aggro. There are a few special exceptions where bosses have abilities that ignore your aggro to specifically target a lower threat member of your party.
Keeping up mana Edit
Paladin tanks tend to have very minimal mana, and can burn through it fairly quickly, so mana regeneration becomes critical (especially since almost all of their threat generated relies on mana-using abilities).
- from the Protection tree gives you mana whenever you are healed by another player (e.g., the healer). Since you should be being healed a lot by the healer, this can be fairly significant help.
- is the cornerstone of Paladin Tank mana upkeep. Without this skill, we would be sunk. It is critical to max out the ability in the Protection talent tree so that Divine Plea is continually renewed during fights. The 15 second duration time of Divine Plea, combined with its 2 minute cooldown, is an incentive to avoid pauses between fights (as long as your party can handle it).
You’ll find your own preference for sequence, but these are the core abilities I put in my rotation:
Other attacks I’ll throw in as useful, or in gaps in the rotation:
- (mainly just with large crowds and bosses)
- (with many instance mobs and bosses immune to this, I leave it out a lot)
- (only available when a mob is close to dead)
- (when fighting Undead or Demons)
- . However, I try to use this one only sparingly given it’s cooldown. I mainly use it in long fights against a boss, or to pick up aggro on mobs that are straying.