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The Light and How to Swing It: Tanking Blackwing Descent for paladins, part 1

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.

In some ways, the story behind Cataclysm is a bit of a family drama. Dad goes crazy and puts a huge crack in the planet's crust, while his children are forced to deal with the sins of the father. It seems a bit cruel for our first raiding objective in this expansion to be breaking into a mountain lair and murdering -- or re-murdering, as the case may be -- our foe's children, eh? (This was a weird tangent to start a post on, I agree.)

Anyway, before you can engage in wanton filicide, there's some work to be done. Nefarian has packed his lair with all sorts of indefatigable foes: the intruding lava-dwelling worm, the pack of golems, the mad scientist dragonling, the failed experiment, and the sightless wyrm. Each will need to be dealt with in turn until you can face the unfortunate son himself. In this post, I'll detail how to maximize your survivability against each foe, plus the little tricks you can use from fight to fight to squeeze every last drop out of your tanking, so that soon enough you'll be able to topple the big guy.


One of the first things you'll see entering BWD for the first time will be the unwelcome neighbor who has decided to crash Nefarian's party. Nef's forces are busy attempting to control the monstrous fiery creature that has burst its way through the wall from the magma depths below. Once you've dispatched the Keystone Kops operation Nefarian was depending on, it's time for you to take a crack at Magmaw.

Probably the best thing about this encounter is how lazy it allows you to be as a tank. For all the fights ahead and elsewhere in the tier that require you to run around like a chicken with your head cut off, there's something relaxing about how you can spend the duration of Magmaw either standing still or in the grasp of the creature's warming mandibles. Enjoy it.

Unless your raid is using some tank-kiting strategy, you can likewise completely ignore the adds. For once, they're the DPS's problem.

Instead, you and your co-tank will be spending the duration of the fight taking turns tanking the boss. And yes, it's as mindless as it sounds. The melee DPS should be on one side of Magmaw, and you and the second tank on the other. This way, when Magmaw does his Massive Crash, you won't have to worry about the melee DPS taking a ton of unnecessary damage. In any case, after a set duration, Magmaw will pick you up and attempt to masticate you to death.

While you're up in the mouth, make sure you switch targets to the Exposed Head of Magmaw, since you can do an additional 100% damage to the boss while up there. You'll also probably be safe to spend your holy power on Shield of the Righteous while up there, but don't be afraid to spend it on a Word of Glory if things get a bit hairy.

It's wise to cast Guardian of Ancient Kings just before the Mangle timer ticks to zero and Magmaw picks you up. You're briefly stunned when first gobbled up, and having GAnK already on you will do wonders for those first 3 seconds, as hairy as they can be.

When you get dropped out of the mouth, thanks to the DPSers pinning Magmaw, you'll have the Sweltering Armor debuff. As such, it's not the best idea to attempt to continue to tank Magmaw. Leave that to your co-tank. Spend the duration helping damage the boss and painfully watching your Vengeance stacks trickle away.

When the other tank gets picked up, your debuff will have fallen off by then, so you're good to go to pick Magmaw back up.

The only other thing you need to worry about while on the ground is the occasional Ignition. The ground will smolder, and you should immediately get out of there before you take a wave of fire damage.

Situational glyphs Make sure to use Glyph of Focused Shield on this fight. You won't have to concern yourself with any adds or secondary targets, so you'll be able to safely boost your AS damage against a single target (Magmaw, in this case). Contrarily, if you're the helpful type, you could considering going for Glyph of Dazing Shield instead and helping slow parasites. Though, honestly, DPS (or a dedicated add tank, if that's how you're doing it) can handle that better than you can.

When to use Divine Guardian Use Divine Guardian on a particularly messy Pillar of Flame, if several of your comrades are slow to get out of it and take a swath of fall damage.

Omnitron Council

This encounter will force you to be much more active than the previous one. While the fight encompasses four different mobs, with each having a slew of different abilities, anything that the quartet can throw at you generally mirrors abilities on the other mobs.

The golems follow the same pattern. They activate with 100 energy (at the start, only one golem will be active). A new golem activates (for the other tank) when a previous golem reaches 50 energy and activates a shield. Then finally, they shut down at 0 energy.

When a golem is shielded, be sure to stop attacking it; you're only going to increase damage to the raid or yourself, depending on what shield is up. The shields fall off relatively quickly -- within 6 seconds -- so don't avoid hitting them for longer than is necessary.

Since 4.1 brought us a reliable Rebuke, if you have the good fortune to find yourself tanking Arcanotron, be sure to help with the interrupts of Arcane Annihilator.

Be quick about picking up your targets when they activate in the back of the room, for the first time. When first activated, they'll be loaded up with a whole mess of global aggro from the healers, and they'll be certainly gunning to squish one of your benefactors into a fine paste. The healers will thank you for a quick taunt.

Two golems have puddles you definitely want to manuever around. When Toxitron places his Chemical Bomb, position the boss so it is standing in the bad, you are not, and the melee can reach him while unencumbered as well. Likewise, Arcanotron drops a Power Generator circle that you definitely do not want the boss standing in. Move him out and just far enough away that melee/other DPSers can reach the boss while standing in it.

If you receive the Lightning Conductor debuff from Electron, inform the raid and make sure you're at max melee range from whatever you're tanking. That should place the melee at a safe distance where you won't zap them.

While tanking Toxitron (assuming he's one of the two golems you have), make sure you keep him on one of the walls of the room, opposite from the other tank. He'll occasionally spawn adds with the Poison Protocol ability, which will fixate on random raid members and move toward them. If the add reaches that person, it will explode. You can throw some initial damage on them by switching to Hammer of the Righteous as they spawn and move towards you.

Ultimately, Omnitron is basically an endurance test. Your raid needs to juggle the various abilities thrown at it while not making any catastophically stupid mistakes that result in a wipe. As the tank, you mainly need to worry about picking up the golems, not killing yourself or someone else with the shields, and not fumbling Arcanotron interrupts if you are tasked with that.

Situational glyphs A good portion of the fight's most dangerous damage (i.e., the stuff that stacks up on top of the normal, expected melee attacks) is magical, so the Glyph of Divine Protection isn't a terrible idea.

Glyph of Dazing Shield is helpful for the Poison Protocol adds, letting you slow three of them at a time right of the gate, before the DPS will likely be prepared to react to them.

When to use Divine Guardian Use it during the Incineration Security Measure.

But wait, there's more

You don't need me to tell you there are four more challenges waiting for you deep within Blackwing Descent. Next week, I'll go into what lurks deep within the Vault of the Shadowflame, each encounter featuring its own unique test of your tanking abilities. Be prepared to tank adds like never before, push the upper limits of your avoidance ratings, and be a model fire dodger.

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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