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[EDITED] Patch 3.0.2 primer for Protection Paladins

Zach Yonzon

It's a sweet time to be a Tankadin. I know that AoE tanking is no longer the exclusive domain of Paladins, but that's cool. With the changes to the way tanking works now, tanks generally generate threat by dishing out more damage... and boy does a Protection Paladin deal damage. Because Protection is the tanking tree, a PvE-oriented endeavor, I'm going to put away my PvP-fanatic hat aside and focus on a build that is optimal for tanking. Don't worry, even in this spec Paladins are still formidable. That's just the way it works in the new world.

We see a big change right away on the first tier with Blessing of Kings made accessible to all. It's not quite the baseline spell we've been asking for, but it's close. Some players can choose to pick up a scaled down version for less than five points, but since this is standard raid fare, we're throwing in 5 points here including Improved Blessing of Kings. We're also going to pick up Divine Strength on this tier, which was moved from the Holy tree. It's important to note that pretty much everything we use scales off attack power now, too, so more Strength means more pain. And more pain means more threat. Strength also contributes to block value, so we'll be looking to get Strength in our gear, too.

We're skipping Stoicism and Guardian's Favor, both more useful in PvP than actually tanking anything. Instead, we'll grab five points of Anticipation, which was moved up to tier two and reworked to confer Dodge. We're picking everything up on the third tier, like the nerfed Improved Righteous Fury. I say nerfed because the threat component was removed rolled into the base spell, so it doesn't feel like it's as valuable as the old version. Trust me, though -- you won't miss it. We'll also get Toughness, which was moved here in a swap with Anticipation. Toughness was buffed to reduce the duration of movement impairing effects, which is pretty cool.

Improved Devotion Aura was moved down here from the first tier and buffed with an awesome healing bonus. This is a fantastic raid buff that pretty much seals the deal for Devotion Aura as the aura of choice for Protection. No more of that Retribution Aura nonsense. Leave that for those Retadins. Well, maybe sometimes. Improved Hammer of Justice and Divine Guardian? Skip them both. Most bosses are immune to stuns and you really don't need to take any more damage than you have to. Both are great for PvP, though, but we'll need all the points we can get deeper into the tree.

[EDIT: In two major 'doh' moments, I forgot why I pick up Divine Guardian for PvP in the first place... it absorbs all damage but I'm immune through it all. Ugh. At any rate, this isn't good for tanking but for those instances where we won't be tanking but instead help absorb raid damage. Still... save your points. The tree is bloated enough as it is. My second 'doh' moment was forgetting that Improved Hammer of Justice now interrupts spellcasting. That's pretty useful even if the mob is immune to a stun. That just might be worth the three points.]

I know, we wish Reckoning would actually work, but we'll skip it here just like we used to before the patch. It's unchanged, so it scales badly with gear -- the better your avoidance, the less it will proc -- and you don't want more chances for bosses to parry you. [EDIT: Soooo... apparently Reckoning was changed to proc off blocks, too. This makes it scale better. I guess you could put points into this now, but there's the added matter of bosses parrying you more and the resultant swing timer brouhaha. I'll leave that to you theorycrafters to figure out.]

Blessing of Sanctuary, also on the fifth tier, is the single most beautiful talent in the entire tree. No, really. It's so pretty that all your raid's tanks will beg you to put it on them. Now this, my friends, is a talent that scales with gear. Yes, it lost its damage component, but again... you won't miss it. You will cast it, you will take on many enemies, and you will go mad from the sheer joy it brings whenever it procs.

One-Handed Weapon Specialization was buffed to give 10% more damage from 5%. Remember when I said you'll be mostly generating threat from your DPS? Well here's your 10% added threat right here. You'll also want to pick up Sacred Duty because -- just in case you haven't heard -- it now includes Divine Protection, which is the Paladin version of Shield Wall. Does that rock? Yes, it does. The added Stamina will come in handy later on.

On to tier seven. Obviously we have to pick up Holy Shield, right? It's been buffed with more charges, more damage, and a lower cooldown. It was essential then, it's essential now. Notice how the added threat has been removed from the spell -- it's all rolled in, so don't worry about it. We'll get Ardent Defender, too. When a boss gets an unlucky crit, our healers are going to need all the help they can get.

The eighth tier will give us Combat Expertise. We want this. It's also been buffed to grant crit in addition to the 6% Stamina (down from 10% before the patch). The crit seems to only work for melee hits -- I can't confirm this but we're really after the expertise and the Stamina, anyway. The crit is a merely a bonus for our threat. Redoubt from the first tier was moved deep here and now grants a base 30% additional chance to block block value (damn, I'm an idiot, I always get that mixed up). We want this, too, for obvious reasons. That's six points spent on tier eight.

On the ninth tier we've got Guarded by the Light, which reduces the mana cost of our key tanking spells. That's cool and all, but the 6% spell damage reduction is what really seals the deal. We can block, parry, or dodge pretty much anything... except spells. This talent gives some added mitigation against one of our primary weaknesses. Speaking of weaknesses, we'll also need to pick up Avenger's Shield, which is pretty much the only ranged pulling ability we've got. It's been buffed to be instant cast, deal more damage, and its daze effect extended to 10 seconds. We like the instant cast and higher damage, but the slow is just too much icing on the cake. One of the worst parts about pulling with Avenger's Shield is the wait between the pull and the mob finally getting to you. Good thing a lot of bosses are immune to daze mechanics.

Also on the ninth tier is Touched by the Light, which converts our Stamina to spell power. We can stop rolling on all those Mage swords now. With this talent alone, everything changes, as we'll be looking to share gear with Protection Warriors and benefit from the same mitigation and the same Stamina without our threat -- which is based off spell power -- taking a hit. It also has a healing bonus component which is really just gravy.

By now, most readers who've read my posts have seen me proselytize about Judgements. Protection Paladins have never had a problem inserting it into the spell rotation, but Judgements of the Just on tier ten makes it all the more sweet. Judging to take less hits? Yes please. Shield of the Templar is great and all, but really, we'll skip it. By now you should already be feeling the bloat, and we'll need to set aside five points for Deflection on the Retribution tree.

Finally we have Hammer of the Righteous. When Blizzard promised that tanking would be more fun, their idea of fun translated to offensive abilities that tanks could throw into their usual gimmicks. This is our fun ability and I love it because it doesn't base its damage off weapon damage like most melee abilities -- it relies on a weapon's DPS. This means that we can pick up extremely fast hammers or swords (or axes, if you're into those things) with low top-end damage as long as the DPS is high. Long discussion short: this ability rules. Get it, have fun, and feel the sheer joy of being a Paladin tank in the wonderful world of Patch 3.0.2.

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