It's a good question, Polarside. I have experimented with various strategies and debated the value of different Judgement cycles, and here's what I've come up with. Of course, this is always subject to change depending on the situation. Warning: long post coming.
First, it may surprise you that I almost always judge Wisdom while tanking rather than Crusader. Why, you ask? Well, unless I'm the MT, I'm not taking enough damage for incoming heals to replenish my mana faster than I spend it. So, either I have to sacrifice some threat for mana regen, risk going OOM, or go through 20+ mana pots per run. On 5-man normal runs, I have a serious problem these days in that I cannot
regenerate enough mana to sustain threat. Heroics are actually easier in this regard.
The other concern here is that, since we don't run with a Retribution Paladin, there's nobody to maintain other Judgements on our targets, and Wisdom has a huge
benefit for the raid. To see this, just look at the WWS for fights that I've brought Brendore to. I've seen my one JoW restore as much raid mana as two Shadow Priests. For that reason alone, it's worth it to keep up instead of Crusader, especially when I'm the only one benefiting from the latter. If we were to run with a Retadin, I'd let him use Crusader while I judge Wisdom, for a double benefit. Another Paladin could drop Light on the target, and we'd have a huge source of raid mana and healing with near 100% uptime.
I will only use Crusader if I am main tanking and the fight is sufficiently threat-sensitive. Void Reaver and Gruul come to mind. But again, the problem with these fights is that when I'm not the MT, I can't get enough heals to sustain maximum threat generation. If I were MT'ing Prince Malchezzar, for example, I'd use Crusader.
Which brings us to your second question: initial threat. In almost every case, my starting rotation looks like this:
* Seal of <X> (usually Wisdom, but could be Crusader)
* Holy Shield
* Pull with Avenger's Shield
* Exorcism (Undead/demon only)
* Seal of Vengeance
The cycle then continues with Holy Shield, Judgement/Seal of Vengeance, and Consecration as each cools down, respectively. I also prioritize them roughly in that order. I don't mind missing a tick or two of Consecration, but if I miss Holy Shield, I could get crushed and that's bad.
Generally, I find that Avenger's Shield gives me sufficient frontload threat to avoid needing Judgement of Righteousness first. I prefer to build threat over time with SoV rather than use the static generation of SoR. Plus, Judgement of Vengeance with a 5-stack of Holy Vengeance hits a lot harder than Judgement of Righteousness. However, the great weakness of Seal of Vengeance is that if I haven't got a debuff on the target, the Judgement is worthless. Therefore, I intend to set up a macro that will let me use a modifier key to cast Righteousness vs. Vengeance so I don't have to remember to swap them on my bars for different fights. It would look something like this:
Code: Select all
/cast [nomod:ctrl] Judgement
/cast [mod:shift] [equipped:two hands] Seal of Righteousness; Seal of Vengeance
If I did absolutely have to maximize initial threat, or pick up threat quickly on an aggro wipe, I'd use Avenger's Shield, Judgement of Righteousness, then Crusader or Wisdom after the cooldown, then back to Vengeance. (Note to raid leaders: a Paladin tank is really, really useful on Hydross transitions because of Consecration and the Holy Vengeance DoT. Hint, hint.)
One FYI: don't cast Avenger's Shield while you're being meleed. Not only do you lose a lot of cast time from pushback, but you can't dodge, parry, or block while casting. Hammer of Wrath is semi-ok, as it's a really short cast time, but could still get you killed horribly on fights like Prince Malchezzar or Moroes.
To answer your last question, unless mana is an issue, I always judge as soon as the cooldown is up.
FYI, I've done some WWS analysis, and the single largest source of damage (and consequently, threat) for me on most raids is... Consecration. Yeah, it helps that much. So, for a Paladin tank, the ideal pulling situation allows any CC to take place away from where mobs are being tanked so I can lay down Consecration without fear of breaking them. This is one reason why Avenger's Shield is so awesome - it applies a slow debuff to give CC time to do their job.
Here's a single-target threat analysis by ability. These figures are based on rough observations, as I don't have the exact numbers handy.
Melee: 50-75 TPS
Seal of Righteousness: 70-100 TPS
Judgement of Righteousness (every 8 sec): 100-120 TPS
Holy Vengeance (stacked to 5): 150-175 TPS
Judgement of Vengeance (every 8 sec): 180-200 TPS
Consecration: 200-250 TPS
Retribution Aura: 50 / Mob Attack Speed TPS (doesn't proc on miss/dodge/parry)
Holy Shield: 100-150 TPS (assumes 1 attack blocked every 4 seconds)
Note that you can only have Righteousness *or* Vengeance up at the same time, with the exception that it is possible (albeit risky) to alternate SoR and SoV to maximize threat generation with a full stack of Holy Vengeance.
The above values give a best-case of roughly 1000 TPS and a worst-case of roughly 680 using all abilities in perfect rotation, which seems to correspond fairly well with my observations. Note that Consecration is the single largest contributor to threat generation out of all of a Protection Paladin's abilities.