Since paladins are last on the list for the upcoming Cataclysm class previews due to how Blizzard ended up doing the development schedule, we've got another week and a half to wait for our details. I'm not picky as long as it gets done, so there's no reason to really grumble other than having to wait an extra week. However, I thought I'd go over some of the things we do know about Cataclysm for tanking.
Blizzard has mentioned that they're going to rethink tanking cooldowns and has previously asked for feedback on some of the abilities we currently have -- but to what end, we're unsure at this time. What they have told us about thus far is how some of the avoidance stats will be working in the coming expansion. Essentially, the only avoidance stat that isn't changing is dodge, with the others either being overhauled or removed. Let's take a look.
Reaching uncrittable in Cataclysm
First off, your defense rating stat is going away completely. That means the annoyance of trying to balance gear, gems and enchants to reach that magical 6% critical strike reduction (currently, 690 defense rating [edit: which is 540 defense skill and yes, 689 defense rating is tossed around as the number, but according to some theorycrafters, you really need 689 and change which means you have an absurdly small chance of being critically hit at just 689 which is why I said 690]) also goes away.
While things aren't completely finalized, Blizzard has said that they will likely just make it so that having Righteous Fury up will automatically make you ready for tanking both dungeons and raids, as far as crits are concerned. Each of the other tanking classes will have a similar, simple mechanic for this. Druids will have it baked into Dire Bear Form instead of the current talent Survival of the Fittest, warriors will likely have it tacked onto Defensive Stance, and death knights will add it into Frost Presence.
Higher health, lower damage, more hits
As far as stat scaling goes for the coming expansion, Ghostcrawler has been letting everyone know that health pools should be a bit higher than expected. That's nice, because bosses are going to hit for less but hit more often, much like some of the bosses in Icecrown Citadel. Oh, and your avoidance stats will be in the toilet compared to what they currently are, to avoid what happened in both Sunwell and Icecrown Citadel.
You'll be doing fewer dodges, parries and blocks than you currently are, as Blizzard has more or less stated that tanking avoidance stats have probably started out too high for the past two expansions. So instead of staying block-capped most of the time, you'll be sitting at a lot less than 102.4% avoidance for most of the expansion. How much less? We're still not sure, as Blizzard has only been hinting at the details of that.
All in all, you'll probably spend more time around 50% health while tanking than you currently are, due to healing's also being reduced drastically. However, you'll be in much less danger of being instantly killed while in that scenario, due to the less-potent boss damage. All in all, it should make things a little more interesting and less of a twitch-gaming scenario.
Your shield side
First, let's take a look at our bread-and-butter avoidance stat: block. Currently, you've got block rating, which helps you to block more often, and you've got block value, which increases how much damage you can block from each hit. When trying to quickly glance through gear, it can be confusing unless you've trained your eyes to look for value versus rating. In Cataclysm, they're reducing this issue by flat removing block value.
"Why would Blizzard remove a way to increase how much damage we block?" you may be asking yourselves. Answer: Because block value kind of sucked in the long run and often needed fiddling with. Sure, it allowed you to virtually ignore the hits that legions of lower-level mobs dished out, but in higher-end content, it didn't scale well. All in all, it was a pretty broken mechanic in which it was either superb for things it didn't matter against or subpar on things you really needed it for.
Instead of a flat value, they're moving the damage blocked to a percentage, and it will be that percentage no matter how big or small the hit is. This allows you to scale your mitigated damage regardless of what type of content you're dealing with. The method by which you'll be raising that percentage of damaged blocked is through a new gear stat called mastery.
Mastery is a generic stat for all classes and specs that makes them better at what they want to be better at. The example above, given at BlizzCon 2009, shows that for paladins, mastery would give you more critical heals if you are holy, faster spell cooldowns if you are retribution, and a higher block percentage if you are protection. Of course, this might all change when they release details next Friday.
Your sword side
Along with the changes to block, we're also going to be seeing changes to parry. This will mostly affect death knights, as they rely much more on parry than we do. Instead of parry allowing you to avoid 100% of the damage from the hit, you instead stop 50% of the damage from that hit as well as 50% damage from the next hit. We still don't know what this will mean if you stack multiple parries in a row.
Some of you will probably have the same reaction as we did here at WoW.com and say, "How can you parry half of someone's sword?" To answer that, I'll just ask you how do you shoot holy fire from your fingertips to exorcise undead and demons? It's a game, and while they do try to make the game mechanics make sense logically, sometimes they've got to make changes to those game mechanics in order for things to work a bit better.
However, with parry reducing two hits by half, you will on average be avoiding one hit's worth of damage per parry. This also makes it easier on healers so that your incoming damage will be more steady, instead of spiking from those times where you're not dodging and parrying.
Overall, the game will be radically changing in some ways when Cataclysm hits, but hopefully, that's just to prepare it for another five years of active gaming.
The Light and How to Swing It tries to help paladins cope with the dark times coming in Cataclysm. See the upcoming paladin changes the expansion will bring. Wrath is coming to a close, and the final showdown with the Lich King is here. Are you ready for the assault on Icecrown Citadel?