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The Light and How to Swing It: Enhancing your prot paladin's tanking gear

Matt Walsh

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Protection specialist Matt Walsh spends most of his time receiving concussions for the benefit of 24 other people, obsessing over his hair (a blood elf racial!), and maintaining the tankadin-focused blog Righteous Defense.

So you've got your gear, and you're ready to hit that raid or heroic 5-man, but there's still one major obstacle between you and tanking glory: You've got to doll up your pieces to squeeze every last stat out of them. Socket those gems, sprinkle Hypnotic Dust liberally, and reforge that delicate line between dodge and parry. Once that's done, you'll be ready to hit the ground running.

Gemming can help you maximize your gear's potential through focusing on the best stats; enchants can also help boost your survivability. Reforging will help you get the most out of your avoidance and minimize diminishing returns as much as possible.

What gems should I socket?

I subscribe to a mastery-heavy school of gemming. As such, I go for gems that have some component of that stat in them. This includes:

While mastery is great, you don't want to gem straight mastery across the board. Socket bonuses are worth seeking, and as such, you want to match colors. It'd be silly to give up free itemization. Maybe in the future when we're using epic-quality gems again, it'll be worth ignoring bonuses (like we did often in Wrath), but at this point, socket bonuses are definitely worth going for.

As for profession-specific gems, jewelcrafters want to use the mastery version of their exclusive gems, Fractured Chimera's Eyes, in yellow or prismatic sockets.

Likewise, for engineers, when socketing your goggles, you'll want to use a Fractured Cogwheel and then either the Subtle or Flashing Cogwheel. If your dodge rating is lower, use the Subtle cogwheel; if your parry is lower, use the Flashing one.

As for the meta, there's a bit more math and argument involved in what you want to use here. If you're going for total damage reduction, you'll find that the Austere Shadowspirit Diamond is better when you're under approximately 85% block/avoidance/miss. If you're over that 85% mark, the Eternal Shadowspirit Diamond is the better choice.

However, I'm still sporting the Austere gem because even though I'm at 5% over that mark, I'm more concerned with taking the edge off of an unblocked hit (which is far more dangerous to me than one already reduced by 40%). I think I'm going to wait until I'm safely block-capped before I make the switch. However, that's my personal choice; I tend to be obsessed with worst-case scenarios. You might get more mileage out of sticking to the 85% rule.

How should I be enchanting?

HeadCloakShouldersChestWaistWristHandsLegsFeetWeaponShieldAnd what about reforging?

Reforging is a very important tool that allows us to squeeze every last drop of survivability out of our gear's secondary stats.

Before I can any go further into that, though, I should briefly explain the behind-the-curtains stuff. To start, diminishing returns is very bad, and it's something we want to minimize as much as we can. The higher your avoidance gets, the more of it just vanishes into thin air by virtue of how much you have of it.

For example, Rhidach has 8.24% dodge before diminishing returns and 8.02% after, making that a loss of .22% dodge. Likewise, he has 9.59% parry before DR and 8.7% after, making that a loss .89% parry. That's a lot of avoidance to just slough off.

Part of the problem is, as a naked tankadin, you have 5% parry and 3.81% dodge as base values. That means that your parry is generally going to always be higher than your dodge and thus eat a higher percent of diminishing returns. Using reforging, therefore, you want to mitigate that as much as you can by converting parry to dodge. The closer you can get the two numbers, the less DR you suffer, and the more avoidance you'll gain as a result of not just throwing handfuls of it off into the nether.

If you're using a piece for a survivability set and want to minimze your threat stats, you'll often be reforging hit or expertise away first. The best choice of stat to reforge others into is mastery, or (if the piece already has mastery) dodge or parry -- choose whichever is lower. If the piece has only mastery and parry, you'll usually find yourself reforging parry to dodge (since, as I said, parry tends to be higher). If you have a mastery and dodge piece and your dodge is higher, then reforge dodge to parry.

Ultimately, with proper item enhancement, you'll find yourself leaps and bounds ahead of someone with the same gear and no blessed idea of how to use it. It's like handing a monkey a revolver -- sure the little guy can pull the trigger, but can he hit the target? Don't be the monkey!
The Light and How to Swing It tries to help paladins cope with the dark times brought by Cataclysm. Check out our protection 101 guide and our suggestions for protection paladin addons.

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