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Mists of Pandaria: Guide to protection paladins

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 9 other people, obsessing over his hair, and maintaining the tankadin-focused blog Righteous Defense.

As August begins, we are rapidly approaching the end of beta. Blizzard has indicated they are in the final stages of tuning for Mists of Pandaria, and with that comes the confidence to report on what we can reasonably expect our spec to look and perform like in the next expansion.

Mists will be a pretty monumental expansion for us. We have some massive playstyle changes coming, as well as the game-changing new talent systems. Active mitigation, as well, will require prot paladins to adjust to a new style of tanking.

This guide is intended to be a 101 introduction to the prot paladin as it stands in Mists of Pandaria. It'll cover everything from how to handle active mitigation and your rotation to how to spec, how to gem and enchant your gear, and everything in between. As we get closer to launch (and even after then), I'll continue to update it, so be sure to bookmark and check back in the future.

[Updated for beta build 15952, last changed on 8/8/12.]

Key Mists changes

  • A new talent system opens up a lot more opportunity for customization of your toolbox based on preference or fight-specific utility.
  • We can now have up to 5 holy power at a time, though abilities still max out at consuming 3.
  • Active mitigation has been introduced, with Shield of the Righteous as its primary vehicle.
  • Crusader Strike and Hammer of the Righteous are now on a 4.5-second cooldown.
  • Judgment grants holy power on hit.
  • Prime glyphs are gone, glyphing is much more situational, and choices are less mandatory.
  • Shield of the Righteous and Word of Glory are now off the global cooldown.
What is active mitigation?

Active mitigation, essentially, is using your normal abilities to enhance your defenses rather than just sitting there and passively avoiding or mitigating damage through stats. In Mists, the way this will work is that we'll use holy power on Shield of the Righteous, which will in turn give us 30% physical damage reduction (modified by mastery) for 3 seconds (a guaranteed non-block block) and, in addition, stack the Bastion of Glory effect. Bastion of Glory, in turn, will stack to five, with each stack increasing the amount of healing your Word of Glory does by 10% (again, modified by mastery).

The way you'll want to work with active mitigation, ideally, is to use Shield of the Righteousness as much as possible to keep Bastion of Glory nice and stacked -- and get the most out of those guaranteed "blocks"! -- and then sit on Word of Glory until you need the heal bomb. Basically, treat WoG as if it were a cooldown.

You probably do not want to just macro Shield of the Righteous (keep in mind, it's off the global cooldown now, so you can slip it in between abilities) to Crusader Strike, and forget about it. There will be times you might want to delay using ShoR for a second or two if a big, telegraphed physical hit is coming, and you want the guaranteed "block" to mitigate it for you.

How should I handle my holy power?

Do note that thanks to the new level 85 passive Boundless Conviction, you can have up to 5 holy power, though abilities still use a maximum of 3 holy power at a time.

For dealing with the resource, it is recommended to use the "banking" strategy. Build your holy power to 5 stacks, then spend it whenever you reach that 5th stack. Always keep 2 holy power up your sleeve for emergencies, so you can do things like quickly build up one more stack and fire off an emergency Word of Glory. It saves you the stress of needing to use holy power ASAP and having to build your stacks back up from zero.

What are my cooldowns?

Our cooldowns are just about the same as they were in Cataclysm. We have Guardian of Ancient Kings for periods of major hurt, Ardent Defender if we expect to die within the next few seconds, Lay on Hands when we need a major heal bomb, or Divine Protection for more run-of-the-mill damage. Do note that DP was changed to be 40% magic damage reduction at base, or 20/20 magical/physical damage reduction when glyphed. Moreover, taunting and using Divine Shield (and then canceling it when the fixate effect of the taunt wears off) is still a viable jury-rigged cooldown.

We no longer have Divine Guardian as a raid cooldown; however, it has been replaced with Devotion Aura, which is essentially the same spell with the now deprecated Concentration Aura tacked on.

Depending on your level 75 talent choice, you may gain an additional cooldown. Both Holy Avenger and Sanctified Wrath have cooldown implications, with the former being a button you hit and the latter turning Avenging Wrath into a survivability ability.

The level 60 talent Unbreakable Spirit reduces the cooldown on Divine Protection and Lay on Hands as you spend holy power. Sims are showing it to, on average, reduce the cooldown of DP to 40 seconds and the cooldown of LoH to 5 minutes. Divine Shield is affected as well, for what it's worth.

Which seal(s) should I use?

Seal of Truth is our default single-target seal. Seal of Righteousness is our AoE seal and is worth more damage/threat at the threshold of three or more targets. Seal of Insight can be useful for progression situations if you aren't having any threat issues (worth 5% more healing on WoG/other self-heals and returns health on attack).

Which aura should I use?

None! They're all gone! Auras were removed from the game. Seals now occupy your auras bar. Their spirit carries on in abilities like Heart of the Crusader and Devotion Aura, however.

What blessing should I use?

Blessing of Might gives mastery, while Blessing of Kings gives some parry through strength. If I had to choose between the two, I'd go with Might for the interaction with active mitigation, but Kings will offer a non-negligible amount of TDR.

What's my threat rotation?

For single targets, we're now looking at a CS-X-X heartbeat, rather than the Cataclysm CS-X heartbeat. As a result, your rotation will be Crusader Strike followed by two fillers chosen among Judgment, Avenger's Shield (and Grand Crusader procs), Consecration, Holy Wrath, Hammer of the Righteous (for Weakened Blows), the level 90 talent, and Sacred Shield (if talented).

The priority for single targets (emphasizing survivability) is Weakened Blows > Sacred Shield > ShoR > CS > J > AS > L90 > Cons > HW. If you're emphasizing DPS, just drop WB and SS.

For AoE, the rotation is essentially the same: HotR > AS > J > Holy Prism or Light's Hammer > Cons > HW with SS sprinkled in as needed. Avenger's Shield loses its potency the more targets you have over three. While Judgment only hits one target, we'll still need the holy power for ShoR.

We do not have Inquisition anymore, so holy power can be spent on ShoRs. Make sure to use Seal of Righteousness.

I should also mention that Vengeance was redesigned for Mists, with a faster ramp-up time and no cap on how much AP you can gain from it (as of the most current beta build). This will have far-ranging consequences (that is, everything will likely be affected) for our rotation, so expect some revisions to the above once more simming is done.

Mists of Pandaria Guide to protection paladins
How should I spec?

Well, this is a much more interesting question in Mists, thanks to the talent overhaul. Rather than telling you a definitive cookie-cutter spec, it's more prudent to go tier by tier. There are some must-have talents in here, but there's also a lot of wiggle room for personal preference.

Tier 1: Speed increases
  • Speed of Light My personal choice in a fight. When you want to move during an encounter, it's usually necessary to move quickly. This spell gives you a lot of control over that, and at a huge speed increase to boot.
  • Long Arm of the Law It's nice, but it feels underwhelming, since it might line up when you need it least and not when you actually need the boost.
  • Pursuit of Justice I'd probably stick to this when outside a fight, assuming you don't mind a staccato pace of suddenly going faster and then slower.
Tier 2: Crowd control
  • Fist of Justice A beefed-up version of Hammer of Justice with twice the range and half the cooldown. Could be situationally awesome for PvE. Amazing for PvP, good for 5-mans if you want the crowd control.
  • Repentance Actual crowd control for non-rets! Probably best choice for most group content/dungeons/trash. A known quantity in PvP already.
  • Burden of Guilt This screams PvP. I can think of a few PvE encounters this would have been amazing for, as well.
Tier 3: Heals
  • Selfless Healer We won't be Flashing others, most likely, so not really worth it.
  • Eternal Flame EF is both a stronger initial heal than WoG (with a nice HoT tacked on) and is buffed by Bastion of Glory. In addition, it is off the GCD, like WoG. Certainly not a bad choice, at all.
  • Sacred Shield Love this talent. Going to be very maintenance-y, but it's free mitigation. Can't beat that for tanking. I prefer this over EF.
Tier 4: Utility
  • Hand of Purity I can see the value of this on a fight with some huge DoT component. Super, super situational.
  • Unbreakable Spirit One of our bread-and-butter, cookie-cutter talents. With these simulations, expect our Divine Protection to have a 40-second cooldown and Lay on Hands to have a 5-minute cooldown. Potentially two Lay on Hands per encounter? Oh, yes.
  • Clemency Another situational talent. Would have been awesome for heroic Majordomo Staghelm, for example.
Tier 5: Holy power
  • Holy Avenger Gives you control over your buffed holy power generation, which is great! Can allow you to burst survivability in a short period.
  • Sanctified Wrath Has interesting synergy with Long Arm of the Law and the Glyph of Avenging Wrath.
  • Divine Purpose Is always up, so to speak. Adds some interesting possibilities to the rotation. Unfortunately, currently simmed to be the weakest of the three, in terms of DPS.
Tier 6: New attacks
  • Holy Prism Allows you to do damage to the boss and splash some healing around the melee. Could be useful on certain fights.
  • Light's Hammer A holy Death and Decay! Has interesting possibilities, and the healing component (like in Holy Prism) is a nice bonus.
  • Execution Sentence Only purely damage ability when used as an attack. The best choice for when you just want an attack and don't need the mixed in healing component lessening the potency of your attack. Simmed to be worth twice as much DPS as the other two. However, if used on yourself, it only does healing, and a nice chunk of healing at that.
Personally, I suspect my default spec will be 123213 for progression content and 323233 for farm/dungeon content, with variances depending on certain situations, of course.

How should I glyph?

Well, glyphing is now more complicated in some ways and much easier in others. Primes are gone, and with it the cookie-cutter, mathed-out must-haves. In their place, we have even more situational majors, as well as (shock!) some actually not completely useless minors. There's a crazy amount of choice going on.

  • Glyph of Avenging Wrath A free HoT for 10% of your health over 20 seconds? Sounds nice, I suppose. Has synergy with Sanctified Wrath.
  • Glyph of Consecration Some pretty nice situational possibilities, especially for some add-heavy fights.
  • Glyph of Divine Protection Will be necessary for any fights with a significant physical damage component, I suspect.
  • Glyph of Double Jeopardy Might be OK for trash, but I'm not sure why you'd want to micromanage so much for a threat gain in those circumstances.
  • Glyph of Final Wrath Holy Wrath is currently simmed to hit like a sock full of cotton balls, so this won't do much. Is certainly no Hammer of Wrath replacement.
  • Glyph of Hammer of the Righteous Nice quality of life improvement, if not a threat boost, allowing you to avoid using Hammer of the Righteous as often on single targets.
  • Glyph of Harsh Words My Word of Glory -- on something other than me? Doesn't compute. Though, can be good for farm content/trash.
  • Glyph of Holy Wrath Our best from on Ragnaros returns. Situational, of course, but that's the best kind of glyph.
  • Glyph of Immediate Truth I'm not sure I see the purpose of this. The Censure DoT is one of the key ways we hold threat on a target.
  • Glyph of Word of Glory A 9% damage boost after every Word of Glory? This feels really nice.
  • Glyph of the Alabaster Shield Probably my favorite major glyph. Will be a nice source of bonus damage for us, considering how often we'll be hitting ShoR.

My default load-out, I think, will be Avenging Wrath, Hammer of the Righteous, and Alabaster Shield. I expect a lot of glyph swapping from fight to fight, depending on what is going on in that encounter.

Minor glyphs

Continuing in the tradition from Wrath of the Lich King, it doesn't matter which minors you choose, ultimately. You can opt for many different kinds of cosmetic toys, such as the ability to Tebow or to have your Judgment crits calls down some holy fire on a target. The only one that feels mandatory (to use that word exceedingly lightly) is Glyph of Righteous Retreat, which allows us to baseline bubble hearth again.

On a serious note, keep in mind that Glyph of Focused Wrath isn't worth it, mathematically. Even on one target, Consecration still does more damage than Holy Wrath, not to mention Holy Wrath won't hit targets that don't exist -- so why bother with the glyph?

Nonetheless, I'll probably choose Fire From the Heavens, Righteous Retreat, and Luminous Charger.

How should I enchant my gear?

  • Head enchants are gone!
CloakShoulders ChestWaistWristHandsLegsFeetWeaponShield
How should I gem my gear?

Gemming is very straightforward: pure stamina (Solid River's Heart) for blue, mastery/stam (Puissant Wild Jade) for yellow, and either stamina/parry (Defender's Imperial Amethyst) or stamina/expertise (Guardian's Imperial Amethyst) for red, depending on personal taste.

As for the meta, the Austere Primal Diamond is likely the best choice, all around. Effulgent Primal Diamond has its uses for certain fights. Eternal Primal Diamond is not worth it; avoidance is just not worth that kind of survivability, and our block chance won't be high enough to make the block value worthwhile. Fleet Primal Diamond is interesting, but it can't compete with stamina.

Jewelcrafters want to use the stamina version of their exclusive gems, Solid Serpent's Eyes, in blue or prismatic sockets.

Mists of Pandaria Guide to protection paladins
How should I reforge my gear?

Probably the easiest way to reforge in Mists will be to cap hit and expertise (7.5% for both), reforging out of avoidance. Once those two stats are capped, continue to reforge out of avoidance for mastery.

How much hit/expertise do we need?

As I wrote in the last paragraph, we need much more hit/expertise than we did in Cataclysm. Both stats are actually important now, and sims have shown them to be slightly less important than avoidance stats with regards to Total Damage Reduction (TDR).

To cap melee hit, you need 7.5% hit chance, or 2,550 rating (2,210 for draenei). To cap spell hit, you just need to soft cap expertise (more on that in a second), which double dips with spell hit and will provide the 7.5% we need. Most of our abilities are melee attacks, though Avenger's Shield, Consecration, Holy Wrath, and our level 90 talent are spells.

As for expertise, to soft cap (removing dodge chance from the target) requires 7.5% expertise chance, or 2,550 expertise rating (2,210, depending on racial weapon specializations). Hard cap requires 15% expertise chance (to remove block and parry from the target) which is 5,100 expertise rating (4,760, depending on racial weapon specializations). I do not recommend attempting to hard cap intentionally.

Likewise, I do not recommend attempting to force more hit/expertise than you have on your gear. You can get more survivability from stamina, mastery, and avoidance.

What consumables should I use?


We have a few options for guardian elixirs:
  • Mantid Elixir (which for the moment is severely underbudgeted; it should be at least 3,000 armor)
  • Elixir of Mirrors
  • There is no longer a magic resistance elixir.
As for battle, we have:Potions Food

Cooking has been expanded in Mists, and there's actually a lot going on now. I won't inundate you with the specifics, but our best food in terms of survivability stats will be the Chun Tian Spring Rolls, with 450 stamina. All food is a single stat now; there is no long X stat/stamina food.

I recommend reading over this guide to Mists cooking.

The Light and How to Swing It shows paladin tanks how to take on the dark times brought by Cataclysm. Try out our four tips for upping your combat table coverage, find out how to increase threat without sacrificing survivability, and learn how to manage the latest version of Holy Shield.

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