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The Light and How to Swing It: How to tank as a Paladin

Chris Jahosky

Before the Burning Crusade, Paladin tanks didn't really exist. Players certainly could spec into Protection (and some did, I'm sure), but the player base as a whole wasn't ready to even accept the possibility that a Paladin could or should tank. The gear didn't really exist for it, the Protection tree was weak, and most seemed willing to accept their role as heal / buff bots in raids.

Protection was even more laughable than Retribution is today, if you can believe it. You think finding a group as a Retribution Paladin these days is tough? I can't think of a single group I ran in before BC that had a Paladin tank, and I ran a lot of groups.

However, that all changed with the introduction of the Burning Crusade, and the redone talent trees...

With the new gear and talents introduced in Burning Crusade, not only could Paladins tank -- they were good at it. Really good. In some situations, even better than Warriors.

But this isn't about comparing the tanking classes -- this is about how one goes about tanking with a Paladin.

First off, there are some strengths and weaknesses to consider: paladins are very good at tanking multiple or fast hitting mobs at one time, and since they generate threat through holy damage they have an edge over other tanks against mobs with a high AC. However, they have lower base health than warriors or druids, they require mana in order to use their threat generating abilities (which is in limited supply, unlike rage, which is virtually unlimited), and they have to work a bit harder to become uncrushable (more on that later).

Luckily, paladins get a skill called Spiritual Attunement, which gives them mana back when they are healed, and does help keep them from running out of mana during long battles. Unfortunately, overcoming some of the other weaknesses isn't quite as easy.

Becoming Uncrushable
By default, every attack made by a boss mob has a 15% chance of being a crushing blow. Crushing blows do 150% more damage, and can't be mitigated by defense. The only way to remove the possibility of receiving a crushing blow is to push it off the attack table -- and the only way to do that is to have a combined miss / dodge / parry / block chance of 102.4%.

This seems crazy, but it is possible. Warriors do have an easier time of it, because their Shield Block skill raises block chance by 75%. The Paladin equivalent, Holy Shield, only boosts block chance by 30%. As such, many Paladins must stack more Block Rating than Warriors. Although it is possible to gain more Parry and Dodge, items with Block are far easier to obtain.

If you're looking to become Uncrushable, you need to have a combined Avoidance (Miss/Dodge/Parry/Block) of 72.4%. This means getting at least 490 Defense (Defense increases your chance to be missed, dodge, parry or block by .04% per 1 point), and a combined dodge/parry/block rate of 50% or so. Once you've done that, Holy Shield will provide the last 30% block needed, and the chance of you received a crushing blow becomes slim indeed.

Compensating for Lower Health
There are a couple of ways to do this -- namely, raise your health with enchants, gems, and leg armor. In addition, the talent Ardent Defender will reduce incoming damage by 30% when your health falls below 35%. This effectively gives you around 30% more health. It has been rumored that Paladins will see a way to increase their health soon, but until that time try to make up for it as best you can.

Generating Threat
Ah, finally, the real meat and potatoes of Paladin tanking. Although paladins generate threat through holy damage, it is far more important to focus on becoming uncrushable first, so don't stock up on +damage gear. The best thing to do is to get a decent weapon (I recommend the Continuum Blade, as it has good stamina, spelldamage and is relatively easy to get) and enchant it with +40 spelldamage. Some of the gear you'll pick up when gearing up is bound to have some +damage on it as well as tanking stats, and that's fine.

Always have Righteous Fury up when you're tanking! Properly talented, you'll take 6% less damage, your holy damage will generate 90% more threat, and more threat is always a good thing. Many of the skills paladins use to tank are reactive -- meaning you generate threat when you get hit. Here's what I suggest you do when tanking:

  • Use Retribution Aura - this causes holy damage when you get hit. No brainer.
  • Use Seal of Righteousness, and Judge it when you can. Again, no brainer -- this causes holy damage every time you hit something.
  • Pull with Avenger's Shield when you can. This causes holy damage to 3 targets, and is ranged.
  • Consecrate when appropriate. If you've got a lot of CC around, you may not want to use this, but it is great when tanking multiple mobs.
  • Use Blessing of Sanctuary on yourself. This causes holy damage when you block attacks. You should be blocking a lot, so this is a great way to constantly generate threat.
  • Use Holy Shield whenever you can. Aside from increasing your chance to block by 30%, any blocks made while Holy Shield is up do damage and generates even more threat. Take the Improved Holy Shield talent to make this even more effective.

That's pretty much it -- focus on becoming Uncrushable, get a bit of spelldamage and increase your health as much as possible. More importantly, don't let anyone tell you that paladins can't tank, because we certainly can!

It just requires the right type of gear.

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