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Tanking as a Holy Paladin

Taking a quick break for the “Levelling a Pally” series, this is a look at tanking as a level 70 holy paladin. Some of the advice is relevant to sub-70 pallies (particularly spell choice and spell sequence); some isn’t (like the gearing discussion).

It’s pretty easy to tank when you’re a tankadin: you’ve got all the spells you need to make you uncrittable and uncrushable, and all you need is a bit of gear on top.

Tanking as a holy paladin is another matter – there’s nothing in the Holy tree that gives you any more survivability (except for Blessed Life, which is 31 points in and does not a tank make) – but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to do it. Regardless of your enthusiasm for healing, you are a plate-wearer, and sometimes people are going to need to hide behind you. Here’s a quick guide to how to be the best non-tank tank out there.

First of all, I’m assuming that you’re not going to be tanking (or offtanking) any raid bosses. You need to be Protection spec and more than minimally-geared to avoid Crushing Blows (which can be done by all raid bosses apart from a few in Zul’Aman), and unless your healers are really overgeared a crushable tankadin is a very bad thing.

That said, Holy Paladins still make great tanks for AoE trash in raids, and for 5-man instances. Despite being a healer to the core, I regularly tank AoE trash pulls in Karazhan and Zul’Aman, and I can tank pretty much any normal-mode 5-man without breaking a sweat. (I’m fairly confident I could comfortably tank most heroics, too, but there’s usually tanks clamouring for badges, so I don’t have to.)


If you expect to be doing a reasonable amount of tanking as a Holy Paladin, I’d recommend a talent build like the 40/21/0 Main Healer/Offtank build that I recommended in this post. For tanking, the important talents here are:

  • Improved Righteous Fury: Gives you a lot more threat while Righteous Fury is up and reduces all damage you take. Essential for any real amount of tanking.
  • Anticipation: increases your Defense skill by 20. That’s 20 skill, not 20 rating; it’s a huge boost to your survivability (and, being a passive bonus, it’ll make you a bit less crittable even in your healing gear, which is never bad).
  • Redoubt: Block chance is a bit of a funny one to get your head around, because it’s easy to get Block Rating and Block Value mixed up. (Block Rating increases your chance to block with your shield; Block Value increases the amount that each block actually blocks for.)

    In any case: shield block is a particularly useful mechanic when you’re facing lots of small attacks, because it knocks its block value off every piece of incoming damage – so you’re better off blocking 10 incoming attacks at 200 damage each than one attack at 2000 damage. So Shield Block really comes into its own when you’re AoE tanking large packs of weakly-hitting mobs, which pretty much defines a lot of early trash pulls in, say, Karazhan.

  • The rest of the talents are really down to your own preference, although I’m a huge fan of Guardian’s Favor in particular. If you’re really desperate to go 41/20/0 so you can take Divine Illumination, I’d recommend dropping a point out of Toughness.


One of the problems with early tankadin gear (assuming you don’t have stacks of epic tanking gear picked up as offspec gear) is that a lot of the good tankadin quest rewards conflict with the best healadin quest rewards as well – so if you’ve been levelling to 70 with the intention of being a holy paladin, you’ve probably picked healer gear over tank gear to gear your primary role up first (as you should).

Here’s a quick list of gear choices that don’t conflict with healadin quest rewards, if you’re looking to throw together a reasonable tanking set. Stats-wise, you’re looking for:

  • Enough Defense rating to get you to 485 Defense, which will make you uncrittable by level 72s and below.
  • Stamina and Armor for taking the hits.
  • Dodge and Parry for avoiding the hits.
  • Spellpower for threat generation – generally, aim for a 1H caster weapon with high spell damage, and stack stam/dodge/parry/defense on your other pieces of gear. The spellpower from your weapon should be enough to hold agro until your DPSers get very well-geared.
  • Generally you don’t actually need to gear for Int and mp5, as the heals you receive will regenerate your mana anyway (via Spiritual Attunement).

I haven’t actually sandboxed all this as a gear set, so it might be a trifle low on Defense rating; that may also happen if you’ve had to take some of the secondary recommendations for particular gear slots. I recommend either checking the gear out on a site like Warcrafter to see how it works as a set, or sitting down with your ungemmed, unenchanted gear and getting your Defense rating up first before you start gemming for stamina.

Here’s a sandboxed view of the gear set I outline below. As you can see, it actually stacks up to 508 defense, so you’ve got some Defense rating you can afford to loseWeight Exercise in favour of Stam or avoidance as you gear up with Karazhan loot or badge rewards.

Note that this gear list assumes you have zero access to raid-level gear; if you can pick up some pieces (like the Kara tanking epics) they’ll provide very large upgrades over many of the items I’ve listed here. This post from Zen is an excellent guide to the evolution of gear in each slot, and also highlights some useful craftables that rate very highly (eg the Tankatronic Goggles if you’re an Engineer), and in fact that post served as a handy reminder for quite a few gear pieces I’d forgottten while writing this post.

Helm: Felsteel Helm – BoE craftable with Blacksmithing; get one made or buy one off the AH. Fill it with stamina gems, and put a Glyph of the Defender (Revered Keepers of Time) on it.

Neck: Strength of the Untamed – Revered Cenarion Expedition.

Shoulders: Spaulders of the Righteous (from Laj in Botanica). Fill it with stamina gems, and add Greater Inscription of Warding (Exalted Aldor) or Greater Inscription of the Knight (Exalted Scryers).

Back: Devilshark Cape (from Kalithresh in Steamvaults) with a +12 Agility enchant.

Chest: Vindicator’s Hauberk (Revered Aldor), or failing that Jade-Skull Breastplate (from Nethermancer Sepethrea in Mechanar) for Scryers. (If you’re Scryer and can’t get the Jade-Skull Breastplate, next best is Breastplate of the Righteous from Kalithresh in Steamvaults, filled with stamina gems.) Add a +150 Health enchant.

Bracers: Bracers of the Green Fortress are BoE epics from Blacksmithing, and by far the best option pre-Karazhan. +12 Stamina enchant.

Gloves: Felsteel Gloves, again BoE made by Blacksmiths. Fill with stamina gems and add a +15 Agi enchant or a Heavy Knothide Armor Kit.

Belt: Sha’tari Vindicator’s Waistguard from the Arcatraz key quest. If you vendored it or chose a different reward, try Lightwarden’s Girdle (reward from Deathblow to the Legion, the Aldor quest to kill Socrethar in Netherstorm) or Girdle of the Immovable (from Quagmirran in Heroic Slave Pens).

Legs: Timewarden’s Leggings (Revered Keepers of Time) with a Clefthide Leg Armor attached. These are amazingly good for blues, and will serve you very well for a long time.

Boots: Flesh Beast’s Metal Greaves from the Mana-Tombs quest. That was back at level 66, though, so if you’ve vendored them since then (like I did), try Boots of Righteous Fortitude (from Anzu in Heroic Sethekk Halls) or Boots of the Colossus (from Pandemonious in Heroic Mana-Tombs).

Rings: Elementium Band of the Sentry (from Skyriss in Arcatraz) and Andormu’s Tear from the quest to finish the Caverns of Time: Black Portal instance. If you chose the healing ring from those quest rewards, replace Andormu’s Tear with a Delicate Eternium Ring, a BoE craftable by Jewelcrafters.

Weapon: You have several choices here. Your bestest bet is the Season 2 arena weapon Merciless Gladiator’s Gavel. If you don’t PvP, go for the Continuum Blade (Revered Keepers of Time). Either way, put a +40 Spellpower enchant on it.

Shield: Crest of the Sha’tar (Exalted Sha’tar) is your best choice here. Alternatives are Ogri’la Aegis (1 Apexis Crystal and 50 Apexis Shards at Revered Ogri’la) or Platinum Shield of the Valorous (from Ambassador Hellmaw in Shadow Labs). Fill gem sockets with stamina gems, and add a +18 Stamina enchant.

Relic: Libram of the Eternal Rest (from Darkweaver Syth in Sethekk Halls) for AoE tanking, or Libram of Saints Departed (from The Maker in Blood Furnace), Libram of Divine Purpose (20 Badges of Justice) or Libram of Zeal (15 Marks of Honor Hold/Thrallmar) for single-target tanking. Remember they’re swappable in combat, of course. :)

Trinkets: On the one hand, picking trinkets is tricky because they can do so many things. On the other hand, picking trinkets is easy because it’s hard to get access to good ones. For avoidance trinkets, try Adamantine Figurine (from Blackheart in Shadow Labs) or Figurine – Dawnstone Crab (BoP trinket made by Jewelcrafters). For pure stamina, the Commander’s Badge is good (Revered Netherwing), or Gnomish Poultryizer, Goblin Rocket Launcher or Figurine – Living Ruby Serpent (BoE Engineering-required and BoP Jewelcrafting-only trinkets respectively) are options if you don’t have an epic flying mount. And the Darkmoon Card: Vengeance (from a Darkmoon Furies Deck) is fantastic both for its huge Stamina bonus and its reflected damage; I put one together and have never regretted it despite the expense.

Tankadin consumables are well-summarized here, and there’s nothing more for me to add. You should carry a reasonable selection of these when you expect to be tanking; they’re a huge boost to your efficacy without expensive regearing, regemming, or respeccing.

Comparing Gear
I recommend the TankPoints addon; it calculates an overall “TankPoints” value for every piece of gear you have, balancing out the gear’s tanking-relevant stats. It adds a line to your item tooltips giving you the TankPoints of an item relative to your currently-equipped item, so you can tell if it’s an up- or down-grade.

TankPoints also comes with a calculator – which you can access using the drop-down menus on your character paper doll – where you can add or subtract stats to see the effect on your tankpoint total. (Eg “what if I replaced this +9 Stam blue gem with a +8 Dodge red gem, allowing me to get the socket bonus of +3 Parry as well?” Use the calculator to deduct 9 Stam and add 8 Dodge and 3 Parry, and see if your overall TankPoints go up or down.)

Note that TankPoints does not take into account your need to maintain a certain Defense rating to be uncrittable, for example. So if a gear change will drop you below that rating, it doesn’t take it into account – you’ll need to bear the “485 Defense” hard limit in mind yourself.

But Why 485 Defense? I Thought 490 Was The Magic Number?
490 Defense is the magic number – if you’re going to be tanking raid bosses. It makes you uncrittable to Level 73s. However, if you’re tanking raid bosses you really need to be uncrushable as well, and you’re not going to achieve that without a) going Protection spec and b) having better gear than I’ve listed above. If you’re not going to be tanking raid bosses, the toughest mobs you’ll be facing will be Level 72s, and they only require 485 Defense to be uncrittable against – so you may as well shoot for that number and save the extra item budget for use on stamina or avoidance.

Make sense?

Spell Usage

Okay, so, here’s what you need to know – your threat comes from two main sources: Holy damage that you deal (which scales with spell damage on your gear), and reflective damage that mobs deal to themselves by whaling on you.

Tankadins use a number of staple spells to build and maintain threat: Righteous Fury (and Improved Righteous Fury), Avenger’s Shield, Holy Shield (and Improved Holy Shield), Blessing of Sanctuary, Consecration, Retribution Aura, Righteous Defense, and Judgement of the Crusader + Seal/Judgement of Righteousness or Seal/Judgement of Vengeance. (Do blood elf tankadins use Seal of Blood?) Three spells from this list – Blessing of Sanctuary, Holy Shield and Avenger’s Shield – are reliant on having points in the Protection tree (21 points, 31 points and 41 points respectively), and holy pallies just aren’t going to have the talent points spare to get either of them. (Don’t try and go 30/31/0 to get Holy Shield while still being a healer, that just means you’ll do a mediocre job of two roles, instead of one.) On the other hand, Improved Righteous Fury only requires 13 points in Protection, and is really a must-have.

However, holy paladins have all the other spells listed above, and a couple more advantages besides. Here’s how to use them.

Righteous Fury: This is what makes you a tank, not a healer with agro.You should have this up at all times, barring nubface moments where it wears off and you haven’t noticed. (Even main tanks do it. Heh.) Pay attention; don’t let these nubface moments happen. :)

Aura: Unless you really need the armor of Devotion Aura, or a specific elemental Resistance Aura, you should use Retribution Aura for the reflective damage. It has a significant impact on your threat, and is key for holding threat levels against multiple mobs. It’s even more important for us than for tankadins – they can get reflective damage off Holy Shield and Blessing of Sanctuary. All we’ve got is Retribution Aura. Use it.

Blessing: You won’t be getting Blessing of Sanctuary – if there was a prot pally around to give it to you, they’d be doing the tanking! – so generally Blessing of Kings is the standard of choice. If you’re not going to be copping too much of a beating, you may prefer Blessing of Wisdom for mana regeneration, but that’s a choice you should only make if you know you can handle the pull safely.

Consecration: This should be constantly up if you’re AoE tanking; the threat output it provides is massive. If you’re only tanking a single mob, you may wish to be more judicious with this spell as it chews through a lot of mana; use a Consecrate or two at the start to build good agro, then lay off it unless your DPSers are really pushing you for threat. Also, Consecrate will obviously break CC (and is particularly dangerous when your CCers are mages, as sheep do tend to wander) – but then, you’re an AoE tank! Why are you using CC in the first place?

Seals and Judgements: On long fights (ie against bosses), you’ll want the threat lead that a Judgement of the Crusader will give you (by amplifying your Holy damage); in these cases, lead off with a Judgement of Righteousness for a quick threat burst, then lay on Judgement of the Crusader with your next Judgement cooldown, then continue with Seal and Judgement of Righteousness for ongoing threat. Against trash, it’s probably not worth laying down the Judgement of the Crusader, just stick with Righteousness – particularly on AoE pulls, where you’d waste a lot of threat-generation time trying to get JotC onto every mob.

Holy Shock: This is one advantage that Prot Pallies don’t have; it might not have the massive threat output of Avenger’s Shield, but on the other hand it’s an instant. Pair it with Divine Favor for a guaranteed crit that’ll do about 1k damage at ~350 spell damage (compared with 750 damage from a crit JoR) and a decent threat burst, from up to 20 yards away. Or self-cast it for an instant heal if you need an emergency health top-up and your pot’s on cooldown.

Exorcism: This one’s situational, only applying to demon and undead enemies – but there’s lots of those in TBC. It’s an instant direct-damage spell, so that translates to an instant burst of threat.

Righteous Defense: This is the pally taunt, but it works differently from bear and warrior taunts. It’s actually an instant, no-duration ‘buff’ cast on an ally, and will redirect up to 3 mobs attacking that target onto you instead. This has several issues you’ll need to be aware of:

  1. It has a 15-second cooldown. Your DPSers need to know that you can’t just mash taunt and pull everything off them all the time; if they pull agro, they need to give you a chance to get the mob back under control before they open up again.
  2. In the heat of a fight, using this spell vanilla is a pain in the ass, because you have to target your party member and RD them to get the mob(s) back. What you can do is use a RD macro to make it act sort of like a normal taunt.

    #show Righteous Defense
    /cast [help] Righteous Defense; [target=targettarget,help] Righteous Defense

    This macro: shows the cooldown for RD on its tooltip; casts RD on the target if the target is friendly; otherwise, casts RD on the target-of-target. So, you’re tanking a boss, you see its target change from you to the crit-happy hunter who’s forgotten where their Feign Death key is, and you can immediately hit this macro to pull the mob right back to you (as your target is the boss, the last part of the macro takes effect and it casts RD on your target’s target – ie the hunter).

  3. The mechanics of this actually make CC pulls very viable. Say you have a 4-pull where you want to sheep one mob and tank the rest? Get the mage to sheep the CC target, and all the other mobs will start running at the mage. Just slap RD onto the mage and 3 of those mobs will immediately start running directly at you instead; just make sure your DPSers hold off on the AoE til the mobs actually reach you and hit your Consecrate.

Hopefully this proves useful to those of you who are in the same boat as me – this is the result of a lot of reading, pondering, and bothering of my guild’s tankadin. If there’s anything I’ve got wrong or anything you’d like to see discussed, let me know!

Edit: Honors Code beat me to the punch by a week! His post particularly addresses the route of a hybrid spec, and there’s some really good points there – go check it out.

Levelling a Paladin: Introduction (Auras, Blessings, Seals & Judgements)

Most of my attention has focused on paladins at the level cap, because that’s where you really have to pay attention; that’s where the difference in a few stat points actually makes a long-term difference, rather than just being a poor gear choice you’ll replace when you level again tomorrow.

However, there’s a lot of confusion out there about how to level a paladin; what talents, what gear choices, what playstyle? So I’m going to run a short semi-regular series about how to level a paladin, whether it’s an alt or you’re new to the game. I hope it proves useful.

Okay, on with the content.

Basic Playstyle

Paladins have a number of potential playstyles: Holy paladins make great healers and can DPS in melee range. Protection paladins make great tanks and can DPS in melee range (using AoE abilities to kill a lot of mobs at once, usually). Retribution paladins make good melee DPSers – it’s a very popular PvP spec for paladins, too.

Healing and tanking are very separate issues; for the moment I’m going to look at DPSing, as that’s what you’ll do most of when you’re levelling. At its core, paladins do the following when DPSing: buff themselves and their friends (with a static Aura and medium-duration Blessing buffs), cast a Seal, run in and start hitting the mob, Judge the Seal onto the mob, cast a new Seal, repeat until death. (Yours or the mob’s. :))

“Auras? Blessings? Seals? Judging? What the hell?” Paladins have a number of spell types; let’s take a look at them here. Note that every single spell I’m discussing here is an instant-cast spell.

Paladin Spells: Auras, Blessings, and Seals & Judgements

  • Auras: You can have one aura active at a time, and it will affect everyone in your party within a certain distance of you (normally 30 yards, 40 with a Holy talent). Auras are static and only need to be re-applied if you die or change aura. Your aura choices are:
    • Devotion Aura: You start with this at level 1; it gives everyone extra Armor. Often the “default” aura when there’s nothing better to use, because people almost always take physical damage.
    • Retribution Aura: First gained at level 16; it causes Holy damage to anyone who strikes a person with this aura. This is very popular with paladin tanks, as the damage caused by Retribution Aura adds to the threat of the person being hit.
    • Concentration Aura: Gained at level 22; helps ignore spell interruption caused by taking damage (and with a Protection talent it reduces the duration of silence and interrupt effects used against protected people, too). Very popular if you’re fighting mobs that silence you or interrupt spellcasting, particularly if you’re in a party with lots of spellcasters.
    • Resistance Auras: Shadow Resist (first gained at 28), Frost Resist (first gained at 32) and Fire Resist (first gained at 36). These give the relevant type of Resistance to protected people; they don’t stack with things like Shaman resist totems, the priest’s Shadow Protection buff, or the resists granted by the druid’s Mark of the Wild buff – so if you have a priest in your party who’s giving Prayer of Shadow Protection, for instance, don’t bother with that Shadow Resistance Aura. Otherwise, these auras are very useful for elemental damage fights, especially used in concert with resistance gear.
    • Sanctity Aura: This can be gained any time from level 30 onwards, it’s the 21-point talent in the Retribution talent tree. It increases Holy damage done by anyone affected, so it’s great for paladins and holy priests who are levelling. It’s also used in endgame raids to amplify the damage dealt by a paladin tank, to boost up their threat.
    • Crusader Aura: Gained at level 62; increases mounted speed for all affected people by 20%. It doesn’t stack with any other movement-speed increases (Riding Crop, Mithril Spurs, the Pursuit of Justice talent, etc).
  • Blessings: These are the core Paladin buffs, which generally last 10 minutes and can usually be applied to any friendly player. (Some are shorter duration and can only be applied to party members.) You can only put one Blessing on any given player. The Blessings are:
    • Blessing of Might: First gained at level 4, adds Attack Power. Good for DPS warriors, feral druids, hunters, enhancement shaman, rogues, retribution paladins.
    • Blessing of Wisdom: First gained at level 15, adds Mana Regen (mana per 5 seconds, or mp5). Good for pretty much any mana-using class, although some (like hunters, DPS and tank paladins, and enhancement shaman) would probably prefer something different unless your party has more than one paladin.
    • Blessing of Kings: Can be gained at level 20 (with 11 talent points in the Protection tree), increases all base attributes (Strength, Agility, Stamina, Intellect, Spirit) by 10%. A very popular blessing, especially good for tanks but useful for basically anyone.
    • Blessing of Salvation: Gained at level 26. Can only be placed on party members. Reduces all threat caused by the recipient by 30%. On no account should this be used on tanks (otherwise they’ll never keep agro); otherwise, useful in parties when you have DPSers who keep out-agroing the tank. Particularly popular with DPS players who don’t have any inbuilt abilities or talents to drop their threat: so, DPS warriors, enhancement shamans and the like. Note that this blessing is not much use when you’re soloing or in a small party, unless you’re taking on targets (instances, elite mobs, etc) that require proper tanking.
    • Blessing of Sanctuary: Can be gained at level 30 (with 21 talent points in the Protection tree), reduces all incoming damage by a small amount per attack, and causes a small amount of reflected Holy damage to an attacker when the blessed player blocks a melee attack. This one’s a core blessing for tanks, particularly paladin tanks, particularly paladin tanks in AoE tanking situations. (The damage reduction helps in situations with a lot of small incoming attacks, and the reflected Holy damage boosts the tank’s threat. See the tanking guide coming up later for more details.)
    • Blessing of Light: First gained at level 40. Increases the effects of Holy Light and Flash of Light used on the blessed target. This one’s good when you have a paladin healing the tank, and the tank is going to need a lot of healing. Rarely used until facing difficult instances and endgame raids.
    • Blessing of Protection: First gained at level 10. Lasts 6-10 seconds, depending on spell rank; can only be used on party members. Has a 5-minute cooldown (3 minutes with Protection talents). Protects the recipient from all physical attacks, but they can’t attack in return. Excellent to save, say, a mage or priest buddy when s/he’s getting beaten up; drop a Blessing of Protection on them, and they can still safely cast. Note that this doesn’t protect you from spell or elemental damage.
    • Blessing of Freedom: Gained at level 18. Lasts 10 seconds (14 with Protection talents). Has a 25-second cooldown. Makes the recipient immune to all movement-impairing effects. Works well for getting out of nets and the like tossed by mobs; also popular in PvP for getting away from hamstrings, wing-clips and other effects that slow you down or pin you in place.
    • Blessing of Sacrifice: First gained at level 46. Lasts 30 seconds with a 30-second cooldown. Transfers a small amount of damage per incoming attack from the blessing recipient to the paladin that cast the blessing. This one has two main uses: the first is to protect someone from damage if they’re going to take a lot of small attacks. The second, and more common use, is in PvP (and some PvE encounters) where the paladin is likely to be CCed, stunned or feared. The transfer of damage from the blessing recipient will break the paladin out of the CC/stun/fear, allowing them to act normally.
    • GREATER BLESSINGS: There are Greater variants of all the standard-length 10-minute Blessings (Wisdom, Might, Kings, Salvation and Sanctuary). These Greater blessings differ from standard Blessings in several ways:
      • They require a reagent (Symbol of Kings)
      • They last for 30 minutes rather than 10
      • They affect all the members of a class in your party/raid (within buff range)

      So, let’s assume I’m buffing a raid, and I’m the only paladin. I cast Greater Blessing of Wisdom on the healer druid standing next to me, and all the druids in the raid (who aren’t out of range or PvP-flagged) are simultaneously buffed with Greater Blessing of Wisdom. If the raid also has a feral druid who will be DPSing, they’d prefer Blessing of Might, so I can target them and cast the standard Blessing of Might. It will overwrite the Greater Blessing of Wisdom on that druid only, although it only lasts 10 minutes so I’ll need to re-bless them singly twice more before everyone else’s Greater Blessings wear off.

  • Seals and Judgements: these are the paladin’s very short term special effects; each Seal spell has two effects depending on whether you’ve buffed yourself with it (the Seal buff) or debuffed the enemy (the Judgement debuff). Seals apply only to the paladin, and Judgements are applied to an enemy, but their effect often works on anybody attacking the Judged enemy. Yes, it’s a bit of a muddle; follow on, and I’ll explain. (Also, as with most Paladin effects, a paladin can only have one Seal active at a time, and only one Judgement debuffing a given enemy.)

    The mechanics of Seals and Judgements work like this: first of all, a Paladin will cast a Seal, which is a short term buff (30 second) that takes effect (or has a chance to take effect) every time you swing your weapon. If you want to apply the debuff half of the spell’s effects to the mob instead, you cast Judgement (a pally spell with 10 yd range and a 10-second cooldown) and it takes away your Seal and applies the debuff half of it to the mob you’re targeting instead. Using Seal of the Crusader as an example, the Seal effect adds Attack Power and makes the paladin attack 40% faster (although doing less damage with each attack); the Judgement effect gives the mob a debuff that lasts for 20 seconds and increases Holy damage the mob takes from any attacker.

    Judgement debuffs last 20 seconds, but they can be extended without having to reapply them altogether. A melee strike from the paladin will refresh the debuff applied by that paladin; a Crusader Strike attack from a Retribution paladin will refresh all Judgement debuffs on a target.

    Clear as mud? Okay, let’s take a look at the actual Seals and Judgements:

    • Seal of Righteousness: on every swing, causes an extra amount of Holy damage, increasing with your weapon damage. (2H weapons do more damage from SoR, too, to account for the fact that they swing a lot slower.)
    • Judgement of Righteousness: a direct hit of Holy damage to the enemy. Is not actually a debuff, just a damaging attack, so doesn’t overwrite any existing Judgements from this paladin.
    • Seal of the Crusader: adds Attack Power, and causes the paladin to swing 40% faster (though doing less damage with each swing).
    • Judgement of the Crusader: a debuff that increases the amount of Holy damage taken by the mob.
    • Seal of Command: has a chance on every swing to deal extra holy damage equal to 70% of the weapon’s damage. Requires 11 points in the Retribution tree.
    • Judgement of Command: a direct hit of Holy damage to the enemy (increased if the enemy is stunned). Like Judgement of Righteous, this is not actually a debuff, just a damaging attack, so doesn’t overwrite any existing Judgements from this paladin.
    • Seal of Justice: each melee attack has a chance to stun the target for 2 seconds.
    • Judgement of Justice: stops the affected target from fleeing from combat (only applies to mobs that will run from combat, obviously, and doesn’t stop player enemies from running away in PvP).
    • Seal of Light: on every swing, the paladin has a chance to regain a small amount of health.
    • Judgement of Light: a debuff causing all melee attacks against the judged enemy to have a chance to return health to the attacker.
    • Seal of Wisdom: on every swing, the paladin has a chance to regain a small amount of mana.
    • Judgement of Wisdom: a debuff causing all melee and ranged attacks (including spells and wand shots) to have a chance to return mana to the attacker.
    • Seal of Vengeance: available to Alliance paladins only, at level 64. Every swing has a chance to apply a Holy damage-over-time effect (called Holy Vengeance) to the target, which can stack up to 5 times. Once the stack hits 5 applications, further triggers of the Seal’s effect will refresh the duration of the existing stack and do a small amount of Holy damage to the enemy.
    • Judgement of Vengeance: a direct hit of Holy damage to the enemy, which increases for every stack of Holy Vengeance (so applying this Judgement before your Seal has stacked any DoTs on will actually achieve nothing at all). Is not actually a debuff, just a damaging attack, so doesn’t overwrite any existing Judgements from this paladin.
    • Seal of Blood: available to Horde paladins only, at level 64. All melee attacks deal extra Holy damage equal to 35% of weapon damage, but also cause 10% of this to the paladin as well.
    • Judgement of Blood: a large direct hit of Holy damage to the enemy, and also causes 33% of this to the paladin as well. Is not actually a debuff, just a damaging attack, so doesn’t overwrite any existing Judgements from this paladin.

Putting It In Practice: Basic Paladin DPS While Levelling

So, what do all these Seals and Judgements actually mean in practice? Well, if you look carefully you can see some synergies there. (Judgement of Wisdom is particularly helpful in raids, to extend the mana longevity of all your ranged DPSers.) However, from a levelling perspective, Judgement of the Crusader and either Seal of Righteousness or Seal of Command will be your bread and butter. A typical attack rotation will be:

  1. Run towards the enemy, firing up Seal of the Crusader (SotC) as you go.
  2. As soon as you’re within 10 yards, use Judgement to apply SotC to the enemy as the Judgement of the Crusader debuff.
  3. That Judgement doesn’t trigger the global cooldown, so immediately fire up your next Seal – either Seal of Righteousness (SoR) or Seal of Command (SoC). SoR works well if you’re using a 1H weapon and you have lots of spelldamage gear; it scales better with spelldamage than with weapon damage. SoC is the reverse, and comes into its own when you have a big, powerful 2H weapon with very high damage.
  4. Keep swinging away with your weapon, with the Seal active. The Judgement of the Crusader debuff amplifies the Holy damage that your Seal is causing, and is refreshed by every melee strike you land on the enemy.
  5. Use Judgement as soon as its cooldown is up to cause a big burst of damage to the enemy (both SoR and SoC’s Judgement effects cause direct Holy damage without wiping off your Judgement of the Crusader debuff). Recast your SoR or SoC immediately.
  6. If you’re a Retribution paladin of at least level 50, use Crusader Strike straight away and whenever its cooldown is up for more Holy direct damage. (If you’re at least level 50, though, you shouldn’t need this guide in the first place. ;))
  7. Note: if you’re fighting very weak enemies that die in a few hits, skip the initial Judgement of the Crusader and use all your Judgements on SoR or SoC; the extra Holy damage of JotC requires the mob to live for a certain amount of attacks to pay for itself, otherwise you’re better off using the first Judgement to deal an extra burst of direct damage.

What Now?

Well, that hopefully explains the “big picture” of paladin auras, blessings, seals and judgements. The next installments of the series will have a quick guide to healing and tanking, and will discuss gear choices and key talents while levelling. If there’s anything you’d particularly like to see discussed, feel free to leave a comment or let me know via the “Contact” link in the header.

A couple of corrections added, with thanks to Firelight and Adese.

Not As Advertised

A standby in the paladin spell arsenal:

Divine Shield
Protects the paladin from all damage and spells for 12 sec, but increases the time between your attacks by 100%. Once protected, the target cannot be made invulnerable by Divine Shield, Divine Protection, Blessing of Protection again or use Avenging Wrath for 1 min.

The ever-popular pally bubble, aka Divine Shield.

Well, there we were fighting The Lurker Below in SSC last night – for those who aren’t familiar with the fight, the strat we were using involved boiling the water around the boss’s spawn point, so the water deals about 500 fire damage a tick.

Divine Shield didn’t protect me from it.

I got roundly mocked in Teamspeak when I grumbled about it; cries of “oh go on, now your precious bubble is worthless, boohoo” filled the air. But that’s not the point: what bothers me is that the spell description explicitly says “protects….from all damage“. All damage. Not “all attacks”, or “most damage”, but all damage.

It really bugs me when Blizzard breaks their own rules in order to make encounters challenging. I understand that some existing game mechanics might trivialize a new obstacle and steps need to be taken to keep stuff fresh and interesting – so, for example, I’m fine with the reports that we won’t be able to use our flying mounts in Northrend (come Wrath of the Lich King) until level 78 or so.

But there’s no real reason to prevent a pally bubble from protecting against the boiling water; it’s 12 seconds of protection on a 5-minute cooldown. Big deal. And if you don’t want Divine Shield to protect paladins against everything, don’t write “protects the paladin from all damage” into the spell description!

There are other examples of Blizzard breaking their own rules like this, although now I’m trying to write about them naturally I can’t bring them to mind. If you can think of any, feel free to comment. In the meantime, I’m going to be over here grumbling about this pointless little attack on consistency.

In defense of Protection Paladins…

Just a quick post tonight, because I’m very tired and have been extremely busy for the last week:

Although I play a holy paladin by choice, I was really happy when 2.0 (and then TBC more so) made Protection a truly viable paladin spec, and I still get rather frustrated on behalf of my tanky brethren when people dismiss the utility and usability of paladin tanks.

Zen, a protection pally from my guild, has a very informative and well-written tankadin blog, and he recently made a post dispelling some of the old myths about tankadins. No, pallies don’t take too much damage; yes, they have enough health.

Go read! It’s good stuff – and next time someone’s trotting about the tired old line about warriors being the only real tanks, you’ll have ammunition to dismiss them. The raiding community has already accepted that feral druids can do the job – now they just have to broaden their minds and accept paladins too. (I shudder to think of the drama once Death Knights hit the scene…)

Blog Azeroth Shared Topics: #1

Explanation: over at Blog Azeroth, I suggested a semi-regular feature where one person suggests a topic and anyone who feels inspired can respond. This seemed to go down well, so I proposed the first topic, and here we are.

Q: What do you enjoy about the class you play the most?

For me, obviously, the class in question is paladin. I can summarise its biggest appeal in one word: survivability.

Playing a paladin has made me lazy. I think nothing of running into the middle of half a dozen mobs, slapping down a consecrate, and swinging-and-judging my way to victory. And I finish the fight on 90% health and 80% mana. In contrast, my other level 70 is a mage, and something of a glass cannon to boot. (Well, glass peashooter, really; she doesn’t have the gear to be called a cannon.) She has a lot of punch, but I have to be so careful about how and where she fights, or she just falls over like a limp noodle. And then I load the paladin back up again, and suddenly I don’t care that the mobs are trying to kick me in the face.

Admittedly, it takes me a lot longer to kill anything, but I can live with that, you know.

Now, all of that is applicable to any pally, but I’m not just a pally, I’m a healer. Truth be told, all the other healing classes have their appeal to me in TBC endgame – holy priest finally looks like fun, ditto resto shammies and druids – but I really enjoy pally healing. I like being able to pump out big heals in a really focused way – and it keeps me away from the dreaded whack-a-mole game of raid healing.

That said, I do lament the obstacles to multi-target healing on a pally – no area heals and no HoTs means that it boils down to “spam FoL on anyone in range”. But again, I’ll take the survivability of a paladin over the raid-healing ability of a priest or shammy any day; it takes a lot more to one-shot me than it does my lesser-armored brethren. (And sistren.)

Also, pallies have fantastic spell effects. I mean, those blessings are swank. It almost makes up for the armor design.


Theorycrafting: Divine Illumination

In the comments on my Holy Paladin introduction post, where I discussed various talent specs for a holy pally, Raquel disagreed with my decision to leave Divine Illumination out of the “bare minimum” spec. Now, I’ve been thinking about picking DI back up again, so let’s take a bit of a look at it.

Divine Illumination is the end talent of the Holy tree for paladins, not to be confused with Illumination or Divine Intervention (which is the usual ability indicated by the ‘DI’ abbreviation). Divine Illumination “reduces the mana cost of all spells by 50% for 15 seconds”, and is on a 3 minute cooldown. (Note that this effect does not apply to Lay on Hands; you still drain all your mana when you blow LoH regardless of this spell.)

Now, the actual mana savings of Divine Illumination are really dependent on your own casting rotation, and the situations under which you’re healing. Obviously, you’re going to get a lot more use out of it in fights where you’re frantically chain-casting your biggest heals just to keep the tank up than you are when you’re leisurely throwing Flash of Lights in a controlled environment.

That said, let’s do a bit of hypothetical numbercrunching. I’ll use my own spell rotation for this, which tends to be approximately three Flash of Lights and then a Holy Light – on average, that is; obviously it’s situational, but over the course of most (progression and newly-on-farm) fights I throw about 25% Holy Lights, 75% Flash of Lights.

Now, again, assume a chain-casting situation, which means that during the 15 seconds Divine Illumination is up, I’m going to wind up throwing 2 Holy Lights and about 6 Flash of Lights – theoretically 7 Flash of Lights, but there’s always a bit of latency (especially for us Aussie players), having to move around, whatever.

So, 2x Holy Lights = 1680 mana and 6x Flash of Lights = 1080 mana, for a total of 2760 mana used in that fifteen seconds. A 50% savings is 1380 mana – in other words, Divine Illumination saves me 1380 mana every 3 minutes, or 460 mana per minute (on average). That’s an equivalent of 38.3 mp5, which is pretty huge for one talent point.

Obviously, that’s not the same as mp5; it’s a mana savings, not a mana return, which means that – just like mana return on crit heals – if you’re not casting, you’re not getting the benefit of this talent. And, like other cooldowns, if you don’t use it, you don’t get the benefit, either. Use it every time it’s up, unless it’s a spiky-damage fight where you know you’ll be throwing out a string of big heals before the cooldown will be up again.

That said, for progression fights where you’re chain-casting or close to it, Divine Illumination certainly looks like it’s worth the talent point – provided you remember to use it.

The Holy Paladin: Introduction

Time and again, I see posts in various WoW communities asking for information about how to gear up and spec a holy paladin. Rather than repeat the same information over and over again, I thought I’d do a series of posts discussing the issues.

First up is an examination of the roles of a holy-specced paladin. The holy paladin can fill two main roles: DPS (don’t laugh!) and healing. This article from WoW Insider addresses holy paladin DPS (the so-called “shockadin” build) very well, so I’ll leave the DPS issue aside for now and talk about the much-loved healadin.

Patch 2.0, in December 2006, was a godsend for healer paladins; previously we made good healers in a support role (such as raids, and off-healing in PvP and instancing) but we just didn’t have the oomph to solo-heal anything unless we were dramatically overgeared. 2.0 changed that for the better, and in the post-Burning Crusade world, paladins are popular and widely-accepted main healers for raids, 5-mans and PvP.

Talent Choice

Here’s my ideal “core” healadin spec:

40/0/0: The Bare Minimum
This build has the absolute minimum you want in Holy as a main healer. Looking at the talents:

  • Divine Intellect 5/5: +10% Int = a bigger mana pool and more spell crit.The only choice on this level.
  • Spiritual Focus 5/5: 70% chance not to loseWeight Exercise casting time off heals while taking damage. Extremely useful, and a much better choice than the other talent on this level (Improved Seal of Righteousness – which is a fine talent for a bit of DPS viability, but you wouldn’t want to take it instead of Spiritual Focus).
  • Healing Light 3/3: +12% healing throughput; essential for a serious healer. A no-brainer.
  • Improved Lay On Hands 2/2: Reduces the cooldown on Lay on Hands by 20 minutes and gives the recipient a 30% armor bonus for 2 minutes. This one is less essential, but it’s still very useful – Lay On Hands is useful as an “oh shit” move in boss fights, and the armor boost can provide a big edge to a tank who’s not already at the armor cap. This one’s mostly in the spec because it’s the best choice for the last 2 talent points at this level, though.
  • Illumination 5/5: Crit heals refund 60% of their mana cost. This is THE key healadin talent; don’t leave home without it.
  • Improved Blessing of Wisdom 2/2: adds 8mp5 at level 70. Very nice, but not essential: if you’re always going to have access to Imp BoW from another pally, you can spend the two points elsewhere if you want.
  • Divine Favor 1/1: 2 minute cooldown, the next Holy Light, Flash of Light, or Holy Shock is a guaranteed crit. A great use of one talent point; it’s really nice to be able to guarantee a crit heal when you need it most.
  • Sanctified Light 3/3: An extra 6% crit chance for Holy Light (the big pally heal). Given the value of crit heals for a paladin, this one’s a no-brainer; see a later post for a discussion of the impact of crit heals on mana regen.
  • Holy Power 5/5: Adds 5% to the crit chance of all Holy spells. Even more of a no-brainer.
  • Light’s Grace 3/3: After casting a Holy Light, the next Holy Light casts in 2 sec instead of 2.5 sec; the buff lasts 15 seconds and is a rolling effect. This one requires some finesse to use (“priming” yourself with a low-rank Holy Light to get the buff up before combat, throwing a Holy Light of appropriate rank every 15 seconds to keep the buff ticking, etc), but it’s very handy and allows for significantly improved healing throughput.
  • Holy Shock 1/1: Instantly heals a friendly target or damages a hostile one. Actually not an essential talent for healing – it triggers the GCD, so it’s an inefficient use of 1.5 seconds of healing time compared with a Flash of Light – although it can be handy to hit the target with some healing now rather than at the end of the spell, if their immediate survival is an issue. Also useful for off tanking (for threat generation) and soloing, so it’s worth taking for its utility value, IMO.
  • Holy Guidance 5/5: adds 35% of your Intellect to your spell damage and healing. A big boost to efficacy that only gets bigger as you gear up.

Key talents I didn’t include:

  • Aura Mastery 1/1: increases your aura range to 40 yards. Nice, especially for positioning-crucial fights, but not essential. Potentially worth taking if you have a spare point, but take a look at the kind of fights you’re regularly doing and decide if it would make a difference first.
  • Divine Illumination 1/1: reduces the mana cost of all spells by 50% for 15 seconds, on a 3-minute cooldown. Again, not a bad talent – I haven’t done the numbercrunching on it it to see if it’s worth taking because I simply don’t have the talent points for it, so it’s not even an option, but I suspect it’s probably a pretty decent use of a single talent point if you have one spare.

    (Tangent: I used to have this spell back when crit heals were free (not just 40% of normal mana cost as they are now) and would trigger it + Divine Favor + Holy Light for a mana _refund_ on the Holy Light. The mechanic was: Holy Light is cast at a mana cost of 440 [usual cost is 880 but Divine Illumination halves it], spell crits due to Divine Favor, Illumination refunds 100% of the original mana cost of the spell, ie 880 mana. Net result: one free crit heal plus a free 440 mana, enough for two extra Flashes of Light.)

Once you’ve got this basic build, you can spend the other 21 points as you see fit. Mine are all in Protection to make me an OT (as I generally need to AoE tank trash in Karazhan and Zul’Aman every week). Here are some suggestions for the 21 points:

  • 40/21/0 Main Healer/Offtank: This is my spec. The 21 points in Protection are primarily to make me a better tank (Redoubt, Toughness, Anticipation, plus Improved Righteous Fury is essential for a tank), with 1 point on Blessing of Kings for utility’s sake and 2 points in Guardian’s Favor because Blessing of Protection is, quite frankly, awesome for clothy-rescue in both PvE and PvP.
  • 43/18/0 Main Healer/Raid Support: This one’s intended purely for PvE raid healing, with no expectation of ever tanking. It adds Divine Illumination and Purifying Power on the Holy side for improved mana longevity (remember how mana-intensive being a cleansebot can be!) and Blessing of Kings and Improved Concentration Aura on the Protection side for raid utility. And Guardian’s Favor again because I just love Blessing of Protection, and you should too.
  • 45/0/10 Main Healer/Solo DPS: This is a hybrid of the core main healer spec with elements of the DPS spec recommended in the WoW Insider article, with six points spare. You can spend them where you like, as there’s nothing accessible that’s particularly compelling. (Just a note: holy paladins do their DPS with a one-handed caster weapon. Their DPS comes from spell damage, not “white damage“, so the effect of improved strength is negligible; similiarly, the DPS talents of the Retribution tree generally rely on a high-DPS two handed weapon that dishes out lots of white damage, so are wasted on a holy paladin DPSing with a caster sword and shield.)
  • 42/19/0 Main Healer/PvP Healer: I feel that I’m rather going out on a limb with this one, because I’m still learning a lot when it comes to PvP, but this is what I’d take if I were going that route. 4 points spent on getting 10% stun and fear resistance, 2 points for Guardian’s Favor (because there’s nothing like BoPing your mage friend just when the rogue is tearing into them – remember a BoPped target can still cast spells, just not physically attack! – and the improved cooldown on Blessing of Freedom is very nice), Improved Righteous Fury is actually useful for the damage reduction in PvP where threat doesn’t matter, and the improved cooldown on Hammer of Justice is handy for getting people off you while you wait for a hand from your DPSers.
    (Note that this spec is assuming you still want to keep the standard ‘core Holy spec’ to be a PvE healer first and foremost, and that the PvP healing is just a sideline. If I were making a pure PvP healer spec it’d be a bit different.)

The above are just a few variants on the 40/0/0 Bare Minimum core spec, providing options for whatever playstyle you prefer. In upcoming posts, look out for a discussion of gear and buff choices, theorycrafting about mp5 vs spellcrit vs +heal, suggestions for playstyle and lots more pally fun. :)

(When you consider that the blog is called Banana Shoulders, and I started off talking about paladins in my very first post, this has been a long time coming!)

2.3: Healers Get Some Loving

With 2.3 scheduled to roll in a couple of days, one of the changes I’m eagerly anticipating is the revision of healer gear. Almost all healing gear is being modified to add spell damage as well, approximately equal to one-third of the item’s +heal value. As an example, Breastplate of the Lightbinder (a plate healing chestpiece with +88 healing) is being updated to add 30 spell damage in addition to the +heal.

This is a welcome change for almost every healer in the game; healers have long bemoaned their itemisation, and the frustration of one’s complete inability to quest and farm has led to a lot of healer burnout (which is bad for pretty much everyone, as high healer turnover harms raid groups and guilds alike).

This change, however, is going to make raiding life a lot more interesting, from two perspectives:

Holy paladins can generate a pretty solid amount of DPS (stop laughing, I promise it’s true) with what’s known as the shockadin playstyle, relying on Holy Shock and Seal/Judgement of Righteousness to deliver a decent amount of holy spell damage (which has the advantage that Holy resistances are very rare, too). As an example, with about +750 spell damage on my DPS set, I can pull around 350 sustained DPS – which is far from great, but I’m specced for healing/offtanking. If I ditched the OT part of my spec and sacrificed a little bit of healing efficiency, I’d be looking at more like 450 DPS – considerably more against demons and undead. (In fact, I’m going to go test this on the PTR after I’ve written this post.) In comparison, in healing gear one’s DPS looks more like the 80-100 range.

However, raiding shockadins are so rare as to be all but non-existent; holy paladins on raids are pretty much always healers. At the moment, despite the fact that we wear plate and a goodly portion of our raid synergy (the seal/judgement mechanic) comes from melee, there’s zero incentive to get into close combat – the bonus of a judgement on the target is generally not worth the added healing load of an extra body in melee. So healadins sit back, the seals and judgement on their actionbars going virtually unused.

This may change in 2.3 – obviously, a healer paladin is still going to need to spend most of their time healing. However, the potential to actually deal some worthwhile damage while still in healing gear really suits the paladin’s nature as a hybrid; assigned to spot-healing (or a pull with lower healing needs)? Join in melee, put up judgement of light on the target, and half your healing work is done – you can whale away with seal/judgement of righteousness while your melee swings keep judgement of light active, and just throw some flashes of light to top people up. Obviously, this isn’t going to happen on every fight – or even most fights – but the fact that it’s at least a worthwhile option adds some much-needed versatility to a spec whose contribution to a raid consists of mashing two buttons.

Speaking as a healadin, thumbs up.

Many raids have one or more off-healers – people who can heal if needed, but are far better suited to pewpewing away. Shadow priests, elemental shammies and boomkin are the classic examples (since holy shockadins just don’t tend to raid, and ret pallies/feral druids/enhancement shammies have totally different gear needs for their roles). Using these people to best advantage tends to be a dilemma for heal leads and raid leaders: what happens when you have a target who needs a bit of healing, but not much? Why, you put an off-healer on the job. But what do they do in between, or after the healing? They pewpew half-heartedly while stuck in heal gear.

The High King Maulgar fight is a perfect example, for those of you familiar with Gruul’s Lair. The offtank for Blindeye needs some healing, but not that much, and not for long; Blindeye is the first kill target, and doesn’t do much damage even while he’s up. An off-healer would be perfect for healing the Blindeye offtank, but what gear should they wear? If they wear healing gear, they’ve got all the DPS ability of a bag of wet feathers and they may as well AFK for a coffee once their heal target’s done tanking Blindeye. If they wear DPS gear, they’ve got sod-all in the way of mana efficiency and conservation for healing (since healing and DPS mana regen/conservation mechanics tend to be different for most classes), so by the time they’re done healing they’re low on mana, and there’s nothing sadder than seeing a shadowpriest resorting to wanding.

2.3 fixes this kind of dilemma. You put your offhealers in healing gear, and they’ve got the mana longevity and efficiency to finish their healing duties with a goodly amount of mana left – and then they can turn to pewpewing and still do 60-75% of the damage they’d do in full DPS gear. (Of course, this assumes that your offhealer is nearly as well-geared for healing as they are for DPS, but in my experience that’s generally true.) Suddenly, your hybrids really are hybrids, able to do more than one job reasonably effectively, rather than people who can do more than one job – but only one at a time.

Speaking as a healer lead, thumbs up.