This guide is intended to cover Protection Paladins in the new 3.0 patch and Wrath of the Lich King. It is a work in progress, so please feel free to add any questions, corrections, or feedback you have. The emphasis of this guide is on PvE raiding. There are other places to learn about PvP, and if you want to solo as Protection, much of this information will apply to you as well.
Note: This guide is currently geared towards level 70. When Wrath of the Lich King has been out for a while and players start getting used to their level 80 abilities and gear, I'll update it accordingly. Also, it is not final. I will update it with any changes between now and the final expansion patch.
Q: What is a Protection Paladin?
A: Protection is the tanking talent spec of the Paladin class. The core mechanic of the Protection Paladin is threat generation through Holy damage rather than Physical. It is designed to use a fast one-handed weapon and a shield, and derives a significant amount of threat from blocking. It's the best AoE tank in the game, especially against Undead and Demons. It can cure debuffs and heal in a pinch, and comes with the full suite of standard Paladin class abilities, such as Blessings, Auras, the new Hand spells, OOC rez, Divine Intervention, Lay on Hands, etc., plus some uniquely powerful buffs of its own.
Q: What changed from 2.4 to 3.0 for Protection?
A: The spec has undergone a dramatic overhaul to bring it much closer to other tanks in terms of net mitigation and threat generation capability. Many core mechanics have been changed, so Protadins will have some relearning to do. Some specifics follow:
- 30% of Stamina is now converted to Spell Power. This change obsoletes Spell Power on Paladin tanking gear.
- The ratio of Strength to Block Value has changed from 20:1 to 2:1.
- Most damaging abilities now scale with both Attack Power and Spell Power (or just AP in some cases).
- In accordance with the above, the majority of existing Paladin tanking gear has been converted to more suitable stats.
- Important note: the Anticipation talent no longer provides Defense, so you will need to check to make sure your gear is sufficient to cap your Defense score!
- The Judgement system has been revamped to make it simpler to debuff and do damage at the same time.
- Seals can now proc on all melee attacks, not just white damage, last 2 minutes, and aren't consumed by Judgements.
- Auras are now raid-wide.
- Hit rating, crit rating, haste rating, and crit from most talents now also applies to spells.
- Avenger's Shield has had its cast time reduced and missile speed increased.
- Some previously weak talents like Redoubt have been rolled into other talents, dramatically improving their benefit.
- Avenging Wrath no longer invokes Forbearance, so it's possible to have it up and Divine Shield or Divine Protection at the same time - or simply save DS for a situation when you need to use it.
- Divine Protection is now unlinked from Divine Shield, no longer drops aggro, and reduces damage taken by 50% rather than providing complete immunity. It now functions as a Shield Wall type ability.
- Forbearance duration increased to 3 minutes.
- Blessing of Sanctuary has been completely reworked, providing a percentage damage reduction and restoring mana/rage/energy/RP on blocked, parried, and dodged attacks. It thus addresses the biggest problem with Paladin tanking: going OOM when you aren't taking enough damage to get healed.
- The new 51-point talent, Hammer of the Righteous, acts as a cleave, hitting your primary target plus 2 nearby targets for Holy damage based on weapon DPS (not damage, thus scaling independently of weapon speed). It's an active multi-target threat generation tool that does more TPS than Consecration.
- The new primary ability, Shield of Righteousness (available at level 75), acts as a Shield Slam ability for Paladins, dealing Holy damage based on Block Value. This combined with significantly increased Block Value from itemization makes SBV an extremely valuable stat.
- There is a new mana regeneration ability, Divine Plea (available at level 71), which can be used every minute to restore 25% of your maximum mana over 15 seconds.
- The threshold for Crushing Blows has been increased from +3 levels to +4 levels. What this means is that boss level mobs will no longer crush players who have at least 350 Defense (the normal cap for level 70). It is no longer absolutely required, therefore, to gear for sufficient avoidance to be uncrushable.
Q: What raid buffs/debuffs does a Protection Paladin provide?
A: Here's a fairly comprehensive list. Note that the new raid synergy system means that many of these buffs overlap other class abilities, so it's no longer necessary to stack the raid. Where available, this will be indicated.
- Judgements of the Just talent causes all Judgements to apply a melee slow effect to their target. (Thunderclap)
- Blessing of Kings for 10% increased stats on all raid members.
- Devotion Aura increases healing done to all affected party/raid members by up to 6%. (Tree of Life Aura)
- Divine Guardian talent allows the Paladin to absorb 30% of all damage taken by nearby party/raid members while Divine Shield is active.
- Blessing of Sanctuary reduces damage taken by all party/raid members and restores mana/rage/energy/RP when attacks are dodged, parried, or blocked.
- Like all Paladins, Retribution brings various additional Blessings and Auras, plus Cleanse, Hand of Freedom, Hand of Protection, Hand of Sacrifice, and Hand of Salvation to assist with threat management, dispels, and damage mitigation. Lay on Hands no longer drains all mana (and its cooldown is reduced to 20 minutes) so it's a good emergency healing tool, and Divine Intervention can be used for wipe recovery.
Q: What gear does a Protection Paladin use?
A: All plate-wearing tanks in 3.0 will share the same basic gear and stats, with a few variations. Stamina, Stamina, and more Stamina is always your primary goal, plus of course Defense, the usual Dodge, Parry, and Block ratings, Hit Rating/Expertise for accuracy, and Strength for both mitigation and threat generation. In general, if it has tanking stats, it'll work for you. See the next question for information about weapons.
Q: What kind of weapon should I use?
A: It used to be that Protection Paladins were expected to use caster weapons with Stamina and Spell Power. No longer - now the fact that many abilities are based on AP and/or weapon DPS, plus the conversion of Stamina to Spell Power, mean that Paladins want the same tanking weapons as Warriors. In general, the faster the better, but you want to emphasize tanking stats like Armor, Stamina, Defense, Hit Rating, Expertise, etc. You may still want to keep a caster weapon as backup for times when you need to generate AoE threat.
If you're a Human, you want to try to get a sword or mace if possible, since the human racial grants free Expertise with those types of weapons.
Q: Which are the best Seal and Judgement?
A: Seal of Vengeance has been buffed significantly, applying on every hit instead of having a chance on hit to apply. Seal of Righteousness scales up nicely, however, and you don't have to wait for a debuff stack to build up. In general, Seal of Righteousness will still serve you well in AoE situations where you won't have time to generate threat on a single target, but Seal of Vengeance is far superior for long-term threat generation. Seal weaving is still possible (and indeed somewhat easier) but dangerous as you risk losing your stack of Holy Vengeance.
As for Judgements, since you won't have the Attack Power of a Retribution Paladin or the Spell Power of a Holy Paladin, you're better off putting Judgement of Wisdom on the target as its effect is percent-based, and let the Retribution and Holy Paladins handle Judgement of Light. If there are no other Paladins with you and mana is not an issue, Light is an option. You'll rarely need Judgement of Justice in a raid situation.
Protection Paladins are intended to derive approximately the same value from itemization as Protection Warriors and Frost Death Knights. Due to the Stamina to Spell Power conversion offered by talents, you will get more than enough Spell Power for your needs simply by adding Stamina. You don't need to worry about Intellect particularly, as Blessing of Sanctuary is specifically designed to return mana from avoided attacks. Either you're taking enough damage that healing will restore your mana through Spiritual Attunement, or you are avoiding enough damage that Blessing of Sanctuary is giving it all back. Shield Block Value goes from being a second-rate stat to an absolutely first-rate one, both due to the new Shield of Righteousness ability and the fact that you'll have itemization value to spare on SBV.
- Defense Rating - You need to cap your Defense to avoid crits, and you no longer get any from talents. The magic number is 490 at level 70, requiring 332 rating points. At level 80, this changes to 540 (but still +140 from base), or 689 rating points.
- Stamina - Obviously, tanks need to stay alive. For you, Stamina has a secondary benefit in that it gives you Spell Power, which is key to your threat generation. Once your Defense is capped, go for Stamina above anything else.
- Armor - It perhaps goes without saying, but you need to wear plate, and plate comes with lots of armor value. Some items have extra armor as a secondary stat. Armor works towards the mitigation aspect of tanking, allowing you to survive even if you are unable to avoid attacks.
- Block Rating - Blocks mitigate damage - a lot of damage. Plus this rating is much cheaper than the others. However, block stops being useful once you cap your avoidance.
- Dodge Rating - Cheaper than Parry, but not Block, Dodge is your second best avoidance stat.
- Shield Block Value - You derive a lot of this from Strength, but a lot of gear still has it as a separate stat. SBV is very valuable towards both mitigation and threat generation, once you pick up Shield of Righteousness.
- Strength - Not only is this superior to AP (due to Blessing of Kings and Divine Strength), but also gives you Shield Block Value.
- Hit Rating - You need 132 Hit Rating (at level 70) to never miss with a melee or special attack. You can benefit from as much as 214 so you can cap your spells as well, but this is not usually a concern. You have no talents to boost hit, so it'll have to come from your gear. At level 80, these values are 282 and 446, respectively. Hit Rating is useful for consistent threat generation and to avoid having your taunts resisted.
- Expertise - Expertise is not quite as useful for Paladins, since relatively few of your attacks can be parried or dodged. Theorycraft suggests an effective cap of 91 rating points (189 at level 80) to reach 23 Expertise, the amount needed to negate Dodge from most mobs. Parry is a different matter entirely and is known to be higher than Dodge for bosses; plus it's one of those nasty random elements that frequently get tanks killed. Humans wielding a sword or mace get 3 Expertise for free, or the equivalent of 12 Expertise Rating at 70.
- Parry Rating - Parry is the most expensive avoidance stat because of its secondary effect which increases your attack speed after you parry an attack. As relatively little of your threat is generated from your standard melee attack, this stat isn't worth gearing towards specifically, although you may pick some up along the way.
Less Useful Stats
- Attack Power - AP doesn't buy you much as a Paladin tank. Sure, it's nice, but it tends to go on DPS gear and you need different stats. Strength is always preferable when you have a choice.
- Critical Strike Rating - Although you derive a small benefit from critical heals, it's not nearly enough to consider gearing for them. This is a valuable stat to look for on your backup healing set, though (you do have one of those, right?).
- Agility - Agility is potentially useful as a source of Dodge and Armor, but you will never find it on tanking gear.
- Haste Rating - Given the relative lack of threat generation coming from your autoattack, and the fact that your spell rotation is based on cooldowns rather than cast times and GCDs, Haste is an eminently skippable stat.
- Armor Penetration - Just like the above, you won't find this on tank gear, so it's barely worth mentioning except that it can slightly improve your autoattack damage, for whatever that's worth (not much).
- Intellect - There's a theoretical case for Intellect on tank gear in 3.0, but Blessing of Sanctuary pretty much takes away any argument for it as a primary stat. All your mana regeneration comes from avoiding attacks and getting healed; your base mana pool should be more than sufficient for initial threat.
- Mana per 5 seconds - While this has theoretical utility in long-term fights, the same argument applies as for Intellect.
- Spell Power - This stat is no longer necessary for Protection, as you get it from Stamina. That said, it may still be useful to keep a Spell Power weapon around in the event you need to AoE tank, as it's marginally more effective at threat generation when you face 4 or more mobs at the same time.
- Spirit - You will never be outside the 5-second rule in a serious fight, and you have no talent for Spirit-based regeneration while casting.
Enchants and Gems
This section will be rewritten once the expansion comes out and I have an opportunity to review the level 80 enchants and gems. An important note on gems: in many cases you'll find it more valuable to drop Stamina gems in your red and yellow sockets regardless of the socket bonuses. It depends somewhat on whether you're gearing for additional avoidance or mitigation, and whether you need to meet meta gem requirements.
- Red Socket: If you need avoidance, go for Dodge Rating. If you need SBV, go for Strength or Strength/Hit Rating. Any of these in combination with Stamina is also good - otherwise just drop a blue Stamina gem in here.
- Yellow Socket: Defense/Stamina is good here if you aren't Defense capped. Otherwise look for ratings you're weak in or just put Stamina.
- Blue Socket: Stamina always.
- Meta: Anything with Stamina is good.
- Weapon: This one is tricky: Spell Power is still valuable for threat generation but you may find Potency to be more useful overall. Mongoose is a good alternative, as the additional haste makes your Seals generate more threat and the Agility proc gives you Dodge.
- Head: Get the Keepers of Time enchant.
- Shoulders: Both the Aldor and Scryer tanking enchants are valuable.
- Cloak: Defense
- Chest: Exceptional Stats or Defense.
- Bracer: Strength or Defense.
- Gloves: Threat or Strength.
- Legs: Nethercleft Leg Armor
- Boots: +12 Stamina or Boar's Speed (the latter is more for PvP)
- Rings: ?
Of the Glyphs available to Paladins, the following Major Glyphs benefit Protection specifically. You get 2 Major Glyph slots at level 70 and 3 at level 80. I recommend the following:
Glyph of Judgement (Req. lvl. 15) - Your Judgements deal 10% more damage.
Glyph of Righteous Defense (Req. lvl. 15) - Increases the chance for your Righteous Defense ability to work successfully by 8% on each target.
Glyph of Seal of Vengeance (Req. lvl. 50) - Your Seal of Vengeance or Seal of Corruption also grants 10 expertise while active.
Glyph of Spiritual Attunement (Req. lvl. 18) - Increases the amount of mana gained from your Spiritual Attunement spell by an additional 2%.
All four of these are really good, so it's a question of preference which of the two you choose at 70. (The Seal of Vengeance glyph may not accessible until Northrend.) The SA glyph is probably more valuable if you're main tanking raids, while the RD glyph is better if you have poor hit rating and tank a lot of trash or tauntable bosses. The Judgement glyph is also excellent for increasing threat generation. At level 70 for raid tanking, I'd probably pick Glyph of Spiritual Attunement and Glyph of Judgement.
In this section, I will cover those talents that are specifically useful for Protection. This includes the entire Protection tree and some elements of Retribution and Holy.
- Seals of the Pure - Increases the damage of your Seal of Righteousness, Seal of Corruption, Seal of Vengeance, and their Judgement effects by up to 15%. This is a very strong threat generation talent, something to consider once you've filled out your mitigation.
- Deflection - 5% increased Parry chance is a very strong choice for Protection, as it dramatically increases avoidance.
- Benediction - 10% mana cost reduction for pretty much every one of your abilities. This can be deceptive though, given the enormous mana returns you can get from Blessing of Sanctuary. It should be considered optional.
- Improved Judgements - Reducing your Judgement cooldown by 2 seconds is useful, but you have to consider it against your overall rotation and realize that you'll seldom be able to take advantage of the reduced cooldown.
- Heart of the Crusader - All Judgements also increase the critical strike chance versus the target by 3%. There's an argument for taking this talent if you won't have a Retribution Paladin along, but the Protection talents you give up may not be worth it.
- Blessing of Kings/Improved Blessing of Kings - This has been moved from Tier 3 to Tier 1, but split into 5 talent points. The tricky thing is that you'll want it for yourself, but you'll also want Blessing of Sanctuary. Pick it up but hope the Holy Paladins also invest some points here.
- Divine Strength - A 15% increase to Strength may not seem like a Protection talent, but since many of your abilities scale with AP and half of your Strength adds to Block Value, an investment here is an investment in both threat and mitigation.
- Stoicism - Reduces stun duration by 30% and increases dispel resistance of your spells by 30%. This is a PvP talent and can be skipped.
- Guardian's Favor - Reduces Hand of Protection cooldown by 2 min and increases Hand of Freedom duration by 4 sec. Again, a PvP oriented talent that can have limited application in PvE; but really, you shouldn't be using HoP or HoF often enough in raids to require this talent.
- Anticipation - 5% Dodge is a cheap, powerful buff to avoidance. Get it.
- Improved Righteous Fury - When Righteous Fury is active, damage taken is reduced by 6%. This is a core mitigation talent that you should take.
- Toughness - Armor contribution from items increased by 10%. Another core mitigation talent that's well worth the investment.
- Divine Guardian - When Divine Shield is up, 30% of the damage taken by party/raid members within 30 yards is transferred to you. You are, of course, immune to it, making this talent incredibly powerful for keeping a raid alive through heavy incoming damage - as long as you aren't the main tank.
- Improved Hammer of Justice - Cooldown reduced by 30 sec. If you do a lot of 5-man dungeons or PvP, this is a useful talent, but in raiding, there are usually plenty of stuns available. The only serious case you can make for including this in a PvE build is the fact that Hammer of Justice now incorporates a spell interrupt against mobs that are immune to the stun component. The usefulness of this talent depends on the specific content you're doing.
- Improved Devotion Aura - +50% armor bonus, +6% raid healing received for your core Aura. Despite the fact that the healing bonus doesn't stack with Tree of Life Aura, this is still another core Protection talent.
- Blessing of Sanctuary - This Blessing reduces damage taken by 3%, deals Holy damage on a successful block, and restores mana/rage/runic power on a block, parry, or dodge. It's a key talent that all tanks will want you to use on them. It's especially effective in AoE tanking when the constant stream of avoided attacks will rapidly refill your mana pool.
- Sacred Duty - Stamina increased by 6%, Divine Shield/Divine Protection cooldowns reduced by 1 minute, and negates the attack speed penalty from those two abilities. This is an absolutely essential tanking talent; take it for PvE or PvP.
- One Handed Weapon Specialization - +10% to all damage done when a one handed weapon is equipped. 10% more damage = 10% more threat, a good deal for the points.
- Holy Shield - Increases your block chance by 30% for 10 seconds, and deals Holy damage on a successful block. 8 charges, 8 sec cooldown. This ability is discussed in detail below under combat mechanics. Get it.
- Ardent Defender - All damage taken is reduced by 30% when your health is below 35%. This talent has its proponents and detractors. Against fast-hitting, low damage enemies, it can provide an enormously effective buffer to give your healers a chance to catch up. Against extremely hard-hitting mobs, it's possible for the talent to be completely bypassed. Still, it's a useful tool in your mitigation arsenal.
- Redoubt - Increases your shield block value by 30%, and all damaging attacks against you have a 10% chance to increase your block chance by 30% for 10 sec or 5 blocks. This is a merger of two previously weak talents: Shield Specialization and the original Redoubt. It's now enormously useful and well worth the three points to pick up.
- Combat Expertise - +6 Expertise, +6% Stamina, +6% crit chance. The critical strike chance is kind of an afterthought to boost Protection DPS (and yes, threat), but the other two effects are incredibly useful in and of themselves, as this combined with Sacred Duty gives you a total of +12% Stamina and a whopping +22% with Blessing of Kings.
- Touched by the Light - You gain Spell Power equal to 30% of your Stamina, amd your critical heals heal for 30% more. The first effect is key to the reitemization of Protection Paladins. Now your core tanking stat also directly boosts your threat generation, and you don't have to waste itemization points on Spell Power. The benefit to critical heals is just a bonus, giving you some additional value in those situations where you are needed for offhealing.
- Avenger's Shield - This talent provides you with a key pulling tool. It's described in detail below under combat mechanics. Get it.
- Guarded by the Light - -6% spell damage taken; -30% mana cost for Holy Shield, Avenger's Shield, and Shield of Righteousness. The mana cost reduction is useful in improving your longevity; the spell damage reduction simply brings you in line with Warrior tanks. A vanilla talent, but worth taking if you've gotten this far in the tree.
- Shield of the Templar - -3% damage taken, +30% damage for Holy Shield, Avenger's Shield, and Shield of Righteousness. Another combined mitigation and threat generation talent, and more of both is always useful.
- Judgements of the Just - Your Judgements reduce the target's melee attack speed by 20%. This is your version of Thunderclap. With it, you get essentially the same ability to reduce a boss's attack speed as any other tank. Worthwhile if you'll be tanking heroic or raid bosses, also semi-useful in PvP.
- Hammer of the Righteous - This is a Cleave that does Holy damage. It's described in detail below under combat mechanics. It's a potent tool in your threat generation arsenal; get it.
Sample talent specs
You have a core talent set as Protection that you will almost always want to invest in. Then there are a whole host of optional talents that improve threat generation, AoE tanking, mitigation, and utility. At level 70, you'll naturally have to give some of these up. Below are some core builds that you can modify to suit your tastes.
Combat mechanics and rotations
Now that we've discussed talents and gear, it's time to look at the actual mechanics of the Protection Paladin. In a nutshell, your job is to generate threat and mitigate damage so that mobs attack you but don't kill you. This describes the basic purpose of any tanking role, and a full discussion of that role is beyond the scope of this post. If you don't understand basic concepts like pulling, taunting, aggro and threat generation, mitigation and avoidance, mob positioning, etc., then you'll have to look elsewhere for help.
Protection Paladins generate threat from three main sources: direct damage, AoE damage, and reflected damage. Sources of direct damage include melee attacks, Seals, and active abilities like Judgements, Shield of Righteousness (level 75+), Hammer of the Righteous, Avenger's Shield, Exorcism (on Demons/Undead), and Hammer of Wrath. Sources of AoE damage include Consecration and Holy Wrath (on Demons/Undead). Sources of reflected damage include Retribution Aura (preferably provided by a Retribution Paladin), Holy Shield, Blessing of Sanctuary, and other raid buffs like Thorns and Fire Shield.
The vast majority of these abilities deal Holy damage, which means they generate 90% additional threat because of your Righteous Fury ability. You also get an inherent threat multiplier of 42% on all your abilities when Righteous Fury is up due to the new threat mechanics in 3.0.2 - this effectively replaces the use of the now defunct Blessing of Salvation on the party/raid. Doing the math, all Holy damage abilities actually generate 271% of the base threat that would be caused by their damage alone. You can also get a threat increase from the glove enchant.
- Autoattack - Worth mentioning just to get it out of the way, you don't rely on your autoattack for any significant threat generation. However, your melee attack is your main source of Seal procs.
- Seals - In 3.0, Seals last 2 minutes and are not consumed by Judgements, making them much easier to maintain. Your choice of Seal also determines the amount of damage done by your Judgement. There are several Seals available, but only a few of them do anything useful for you.
- Primary seals:
- Seal of Righteousness - This seal provides steady, predictable threat generation without the need to stack debuffs on your targets. It is stronger than Seal of Vengeance in up-front damage, but weaker once you've built up 3-4 stacks of the Holy Vengeance DoT. For advanced users, you can wait for a 5-stack of Holy Vengeance, then switch to Seal of Righteousness for additional threat while you wait for your Judgement cooldown. This tactic is highly dependent on cooldown management, however.
- Seal of Vengeance/Seal of Corruption - This should be your primary tanking seal in most situations. It develops significant threat generation over time as the Holy Vengeance DoT stacks up. What's even better is that Hammer of the Righteous applies the debuff as well, allowing you to reliably stack the DoT on multiple targets.
- Seal of Wisdom/Seal of Light - These Seals provide mana regen and healing, respectively, but only to yourself. These effects generate little to no threat, making them almost worthless unless you're in a very desperate situation. You may wish to keep them in reserve if your healers all die and you're up against mobs that don't hit you extremely hard.
- Seal of Justice - Gives a % chance on hit to stun your target for 2 seconds. Given that this works with Hammer of the Righteous, it's still much too random to have any value in PvE. It can be very effective in PvP, however.
- Seal of Blood/Seal of the Martyr - This Seal is designed to scale with your weapon damage - the Seal itself isn't so bad, aside from the fact that it saps your health, which can sometimes be useful if you depend on healing to regenerate mana. The Judgement is pathetic, though, given your traditional weapon selection.
- Judgements - Since 3.0, all Judgements deal damage based on AP and SP, with a modifier based on your active Seal, so you no longer have to choose between generating threat and debuffing your target. They are on the global cooldown, however. There are three Judgements available:
- Judgement of Wisdom - You will generally want to use this Judgement in a raid context, as you're supplying mana regeneration to both yourself and the raid and it is a flat percentage amount rather than scaling with AP/SP.
- Judgement of Light - In situations where you are the lone Paladin, you may consider this Judgement to help with healing, but you sacrifice some mana regeneration as a result.
- Judgement of Justice - There are a few PvE situations where preventing a mob from fleeing is valuable. This is much more of a PvP-oriented ability, however.
- Shield of Righteousness - This is akin to Warriors' Shield Slam, dealing Holy damage based on your Block Value. It is the newest single target threat tool available to Paladins and it is awesome, well worth adding to your rotation. It is not trainable until level 75, but once you get it, you'll see your TPS go way up.
- Holy Shield - This increases your block chance by 30% for its 10 second duration, and each attack that is blocked deals Holy damage to your attacker. Its cooldown has been reduced to 8 seconds, so it's now possible to recast it before it expires, giving you effectively 100% uptime unless a group of mobs or an unusually fast single mob chews through all the charges.
- Avenger's Shield - Inflicts Holy damage to your target and chains to up to 2 other nearby targets, applying a 50% speed debuff to all affected targets. Given its range and the fact that its chaining can't break CC, this is perhaps the best tank pulling ability currently in the game (Death Knights notwithstanding). It has a relatively long cooldown, but the short cast time means you may be able to squeeze it off while tanking if you absolutely need the extra threat generation.
- Hammer of the Righteous - This is a Cleave-type ability, hitting your current target plus up to 2 other nearby targets, dealing Holy damage based on weapon DPS (not damage). It is also capable of proccing Seals. This is a multi-target threat generation tool that does not use an AoE mechanic, something that's very valuable for when a Paladin has to tank multiple targets with CC involved.
- Consecration - 8 sec AoE DoT, dealing Holy damage each second to all enemies in a 10 yard radius. The individual ticks are small, but the threat that they generate adds up fast, making Consecration your most valuable AoE tanking tool.
- Hammer of Wrath - Now an instant attack, and therefore not making you vulnerable to being hit while casting it, this deals Holy damage up to 30 yards away to a target below 35% health, on a 6 sec cooldown. With its low cooldown and high damage, this is a very powerful ability to throw in when your target gets low on health. It's basically your version of Execute.
- Exorcism - Instant cast, 30 yard Holy nuke, only effective against Demons or Undead, 15 sec cooldown. This spell is both a useful pulling tool and an excellent source of damage/threat generation. You can Glyph it to have an interrupt effect as well.
- Holy Wrath - Instant cast, 10 yard AoE that only damages Demons or Undead, also stunning them for 3 seconds, 30 sec cooldown. This is buffed tremendously in 3.0, allowing you to instantly generate a huge amount of AoE threat and stun hordes of mobs at the same time. The only weakness is that it breaks CC.
- Hammer of Justice - Instant stun, 5 yard range, 1 min cooldown (30 sec talented). This is a powerful control tool for trash mobs and some small group bosses. Keeping a mob pinned down for 6-7 seconds can save lives. Know when it's appropriate to use this, however, as a stunned mob isn't hitting you and therefore isn't helping you generate threat.
- Devotion Aura - You'll want to use this most of the time, as your talents give it an additional Armor bonus and a 6% increase to raid healing done.
- Retribution Aura - It's much better if a Retribution Paladin provides this Aura, as it scales far better for them and gives the raid additional bonuses. In an AoE tanking situation with no Retribution Paladin, you can consider using it yourself to help with threat generation.
- Concentration Aura - This has almost no use for you, since very few of your abilities have a cast time. Let the Holy Paladin provide it.
- Frost Resistance Aura, Shadow Resistance Aura, Fire Resistance Aura - There are obviously circumstances where these are useful, but they won't be your primary Aura unless the others are covered already (e.g., you have more than 3 Paladins in your group).
- Crusader Aura - It perhaps goes without saying, but this doesn't do anything in combat, and having it on is a sign that you're a noob.
The first thing you should always do before any pull is make sure that Righteous Fury is still active. It's very easy to forget, and you'll feel really stupid when the mobs run right past you and start smashing the DPS. Immediately before pulling, make sure to precast your preferred Seal, and also precast Holy Shield so it will be up when the first mob reaches you.
Avenger's Shield should be your ability of choice when pulling. It grabs 3 targets, doesn't break CC, and gives you a very nice starting threat boost. Against vulnerable targets, the slow debuff also gives you a little more time to prepare for them to arrive. You should be careful using it in a multiple tank situation, especially with untauntable mobs, as you could end up with a lot more things hitting you than you really want. In these cases, use Judgement instead and/or allow yourself to be Misdirected to.
Against single Undead/Demon mobs, Exorcism will be your second cast. If a large number of mobs is present, save Holy Wrath until they are all in range (see AoE tactics below for more information).
Using Avenging Wrath on the pull can be a great way to boost your initial threat generation - this is especially valuable in 3.0 since you don't suffer Forbearance from it anymore.
Against a single target, you want to prioritize your highest threat moves. Use Seal of Vengeance to get the debuff stack going, Judge immediately after the pull, then hit Shield of Righteousness as soon as the mob gets in range. Your highest priority moves are, in order, Holy Shield, Shield of Righteousness, Judgement, Hammer of the Righteous, Consecration. If the target is Demon or Undead, Exorcism moves in ahead of Consecration, and if it's stunnable, Holy Wrath is good to throw in every now and then. In long fights, make sure to watch your Seal timer and refresh it if needed. Also, don't forget to start using Hammer of Wrath once your target goes below 35% health. At that point it should become your highest priority after Holy Shield.
Against an AoE group, your highest priority is to pick up as many mobs as possible on the initial pull. You want Consecration active immediately after the pull so that the mobs path through it on their way to you (or anyone else whom they may happen to aggro on). If you don't have another Paladin to provide it, you want to use your own Retribution Aura. You should refresh Holy Shield and Consecration on every cooldown, use your Hammer of the Righteous as often as possible, and worry about Judgement and Shield of Righteousness only when you have cooldowns to spare. Your priorities are Holy Shield, Consecration, Hammer of the Righteous, Shield of Righteousness, and Judgement. Again, if you have Demons or Undead to play with, cast Holy Wrath at every opportunity, but be aware of its 10 yard range; it's worthwhile to wait until the mobs are all very close to throw it.
Working with crowd control
In a CC-sensitive pull, you want to avoid using abilities that will break mobs free. Avenger's Shield and Hammer of the Righteous specifically exempt CC'd mobs from their targeting, so you can use them without concern. You must be careful, however, to keep your Consecration and Holy Wrath well clear of anything that's CC'd. If you're working in tight spaces, you'll have to avoid using them altogether; otherwise you may be able to drag your target(s) away to give yourself room.
These are a pain to tank, both because you can't mitigate or avoid nearly as much of their damage and because you can't generate reactive threat through blocking or Retribution Aura. If the mob is interruptible or stunnable, Hammer of Justice will become your best friend. For threat generation, use Shield of Righteousness, Judgement and Hammer of the Righteous whenever possible, keep Consecration up, try to stay in melee range, and unless the mob has a secondary melee attack, ignore Holy Shield as it's a waste of mana. Also consider using a resistance Aura instead of Devotion Aura if you can't get the appropriate resistance buff from another group member. You don't have access to the Warrior's Spell Reflection ability, so consider falling back on Divine Protection if you need to survive a big nuke.
Elemental melee mobs
Some mobs don't play nice and deal non-physical damage with their melee attacks. Your major disadvantages against these mobs are that you cannot block their attacks, so Holy Shield is useless, and also that your Armor value is worthless. You can still reflect damage and you can still dodge and parry, so it's not quite as bad as with a caster. As with casters, consider using a resistance Aura instead of Devotion Aura if you can't get the appropriate resistance buff from another group member.
Spell reflection, immunities, and other annoyances
Even worse than casters and elementals, mobs with spell reflection abilities or magic absorption/immunity will ruin your whole day. Try to avoid tanking these whenever possible, and if you must tank them, inform the group that they will have to hold way back on DPS. Spell reflection isn't horribly bad, but it will reflect your Seal procs as well as your Judgements, Exorcism, and even Hammer of Justice (oops). AoE effects like Consecration and reflected damage still work just fine. Magic absorption/immunity simply means you can't generate threat with anything except your pathetic autoattack.
As a Paladin, you have several emergency buttons to use. Which one you choose to deploy depends on the situation.
- If you are taking massive damage and must maintain aggro, use Divine Protection (not Divine Shield). It mitigates 50% of incoming damage for 12 seconds.
- You can use Lay on Hands every 20 minutes to fully heal yourself or another tank. It also restores mana, and no longer drains yours.
- If you must remove debuffs that cannot be cleansed, use Divine Shield, but if you are tanking a mob, be prepared with a macro to cancel it as quickly as possible so it doesn't run off and kill your friends. You can also use Divine Shield in situations where you anticipate a huge incoming damage spike, such as Kael'thas' Pyroblast ability.
- In a raid situation where you are not tanking but there is heavy damage being taken by either the raid as a whole or a single character, using Divine Shield in combination with the Divine Guardian talent will reduce all incoming raid damage by 30% for the duration.
- If you have trinkets that increase mitigation or avoidance or give you a health boost, set up a macro or hotkey to activate them. Also consider macroing Health Potions, Healthstones, Nightmare Seeds, and similar items.
- If you run low on mana, use Divine Plea (level 71+). It will refill 25% of your mana bar over 15 seconds, and is usable once per minute. The healing penalty shouldn't affect you.
- Don't forget about your ability to Cleanse yourself and others.
- You can assist with aggro and threat management for others by use of your Hand of Salvation and Hand of Protection abilities (see below).
- You can stun most mobs with Hammer of Justice to buy yourself some time. This doesn't work on most bosses, though.
- If all else fails, Divine Intervention cast on a rezzer can provide wipe recovery, and in some cases can even save a wipe.
Paladins have some comprehensive aggro management tools to assist them with tanking and generally keeping people alive.
- First and foremost, Righteous Fury is your basic tanking buff - like Defensive Stance and Bear Form, it provides additional damage reduction and "activates" your threat advantage. Unlike those abilities, it has a 30 min duration and has to be recast from time to time; it is also dispellable. Make sure you keep it on!
- Blessing of Salvation is no more. Its effect is now implicitly part of all tanking abilities. However, you now have a useful ability called Hand of Salvation. You can cast this every 2 minutes to reduce the threat (and damage output) of a fellow raid member over several seconds. If you see someone sneaking above you on the threat meter, using this can get them back where they need to be. You can even use it on yourself in situations where you need to force a tank transition and the mob is not tauntable.
- Hand of Protection (formerly Blessing of Protection) can be used every 5 minutes to protect a target from physical damage and drop all aggro from most mobs. It lasts 10 seconds, hopefully buying you time to gain control of the situation.
- Hand of Sacrifice transfers 30% of the damage taken by its target to you. Since you're a tank, you can presumably handle the incoming damage, and it can save the life of whoever it's cast on.
- Hand of Freedom - While not technically a threat management tool, you can use this to break yourself or anyone else out of slowing or immobilization effects that can't otherwise be cleansed or removed.
- Divine Shield - This is a threat management tool for yourself. If you must drop aggro for whatever reason, use it. Just remember that its threat drop is only temporary; if you haven't gone below the tank by the time it expires, you'll get the mob right back.