The Light and How to Swing It: Tips and tricks for tanking the Gates of Retribution

Matt Walsh
M. Walsh|10.27.13

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The Light and How to Swing It Tips and tricks for tanking the Gates of Retribution SAT
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.

The other week we explored the first four bosses of the Siege of Orgrimmar raid, though funny enough it's the branch of the instance that doesn't actually take place anywhere near the orc capital. Regardless, now that that section is cleared, we move on to the sunny shores of Durotar for slightly more serious encounters. Time for some of the messiest tanking you've experienced all of Mists!


I don't know about you, but my least favorite fight in this instance thus far is easily Dark Shaman. But -- but! -- a close contender is definitely this scaley son of a bee-sting. I've never really cared for add fights, and Galakras is just another uninteresting, formulaic fight consisting of waves of adds and eventually a boss. Thankfully, they spice it up slightly with the towers, though realistically one could uncharitably compare the encounter to a condensed facsimile of the Hyjal raid.

And then there's Spoils. But, thankfully, that's another column.

To get back to the meat of the fight, you'll want to pick a glyph/talent loadout that works well with adds. Avoid Glyph of Focused Shield, definitely talent for Light's Hammer and Fist of Justice (to stun the Bonecrushers when they go after the NPCs assisting you).

The first few weeks we did the fight, I found tanking High Enforcer Thranok's pack to get hairy at times. I eventually settled on using Holy Avenger and Avenging Wrath together to power through the time when he was up, and then using other cooldowns until he was dropped. In later weeks he wasn't a problem at all, though.

In phase 2, when Galakras tosses Zaela and touches down, you'll want to put the drake's back to the raid and then, with your co-tank, position at 10 and 2 at the boss' face. This will keep each of you from grabbing stacks of the debuff while not actively tanking, when you should be dropping your stacks. Make sure to talent for Hand of Purity as well to periodically take the bite off of the debuff.

Iron Juggernaut

Iron Juggernaut is a nice break from Galakras, far and away more a healing fight than a tanking one. Sure, you'll be trading off the boss on a debuff and sure you'll be dodging crap on the ground but -- and thank heavens for small mercies -- there are no adds, technically. There are however Crawler Mines, three in all, that you can click like a vehicle to set off and absorb the damage of. Essentially you'll want to throw yourself on all three grenades before they can go off and damage the raid.

It's a bit of a test of endurance to claim all three, especially if the healers are particularly overtaxed -- like during the Siege Mode. You'll find immunities to be your best friend here, since you don't have to actually tank the mines. Just ride the lightning, so speak.

Spec into Clemency so you can weave Hand of Protection and Divine Shield to cover the damage from threes series of mines. The damage you'll take from the explosion is physical, so Hand of Protection will cover both that and the fall damage when you hit the ground. You'll need two tricks to cover the other (approximately) two that will occur, so plan your cooldowns wisely.

Again, because the damage is physical, make sure to glyph Divine Protection. It might also be prudent to to spec into Sacred Shield, so you can use Word of Glory as a cooldown. Regardless, with Speed of Light you should be able to cover all three mines within the period of one bubble or one cooldown -- if the mines are kind to you and stand close together.

Other than that, the fight is pretty straightforward. In Assault Mode, trade off with your tank after three stacks of the debuff and, when in front of the boss, try to stay at 10 or 2 until Borer Drill occurs, then dash to a clear spot at the other position.

During Siege Mode, do your best to cover mines with your co-tank and make sure that one of you is prepared to pick up the boss when it turns back to assault mode. Use Hand of Sacrifice to help your healers if they're having trouble keeping someone up.

Kor'kron Dark Shaman

So, yes, this fight. When I say the fight night we killed this I subsequently dreamt about doing it over and over, like some sort of Sisyphean hell -- I am not kidding. When I write ill-advised columns about how uninteresting fights can be, this is the kind of encounter that crawls out of the deepest, darkest parts of the nether and hisses with a twisted, dripping smile, "Okay, let's try this on for size, tough guy."

I hate this fight. It's easily the most hectic fight of the entire expansion, at least to get a handle on. And when you do get it down and it's easily repeatable, it's still going to be a royal pain to perform every week.

Or you can bring three tanks to it and completely neuter the encounter. Unfortunately, raiding in a 10man, we don't have that kind of roster flexibility, and we had to do it the hard way. I'll explain what we did to make it partially bearable for two tanks.

First, make sure you clear out ALL the trash in that entire section of Orgrimmar. Clear all the houses. You'll need all the space to drag them around and don't want surprise adds coming in to the fight and causing trouble.

Start off to the left of the Throne Hut by the forges and there you'll tank in a huge pile, burning down the dogs and getting the bosses to 85% when they'll begin dropping tornadoes. As soon as the first Toxic Mist appears, kite clockwise away from it. Make sure you don't get flustered and forget to swap with your co-tank, you don't want Haromm's stacks to get too high on either of you. Because most of the damage in this fight is magical, make sure to unglyph Divine Protection, and you can use that to blunt the damage from a higher count of stacks. Also, be sure to talent Unbreakable Spirit so you have DP available more often.

At 65% the first major problem emerges. Every so often the Kardris tank will become the Foul Geyser target and slimes will pop up on them. That tank, a few seconds before DBM says Geyser will occur, must backtrack to a safe spot and drop the slimes there. If it's you, use glyphed Holy Wrath to stun slimes that are up and then get the hell out of there so ranged DPS can burn them down and the slimes don't overwhelm you with their AOE pulse.

At 50%, Haromm will periodically spawn an Ashen Wall on top of his tank. The Ashen Wall is a line of elementals that will melee the crap out of anyone in their reach, but they will not move. The trick with this is they will spawn perpendicular to how the tank is facing. So if you put your back to a wall, the Ashen Wall will spawn along it and not jutting out into the raid. It is critically important that, as the Haromm tank, you get a handle on this mechanic.

And so, after 50%, you'll be getting in a cycle where every so often one tank will run back and drop Geyser and the other will move slightly ahead and position Ashen Wall where it'll do the least amount of damage. Link up a little ahead of the Ashen Wall and taunt swap if necessary.

Then, finally, at 25% the Dark Shaman will use Bloodlust and your raid will likely do the same. All the abilities still occur, but the bosses will hurt you even more. You'll need to use cooldowns (good place for Holy Avenger and Avenging Wrath combo) to withstand the onslaught.

Soon, mercifully, they will die and you can carry on... somehow.

General Nazgrim

Thankfully Nazgrim is a much, much more forgiving fight to tank -- and it really better be after that mess, right? I'll keep this short and sweet.

Like on Sha of Pride, quick taunts are critical for the tanks here. You want to mitigate rage gains for the boss, so as soon as your Sunder stacks drop off, taunt from your co-tank. Try to keep it so both of you are maxing out at 3.

When the boss goes into Berserker Stance, he'll do extra damage to you as well as take extra damage himself. Good place for HA+AW. When he's in Defensive Stance, the raid can't touch him, but as long as you have Sunders you can safely do damage to him.

Try your best to help out the raid as much as you can with adds, without gaining aggro on something and bringing it back to the boss when you need to taunt. It could be disastrous to bring an Ironblade into melee, or a Shaman which may drop a healing totem right next to the boss and basically cause a wipe. Only DPS adds which the raid is actively burning down.

Spec into Clemency so you can use your Hand spells on the raid. Use Hand of Sacrifice on anyone tanking an assassin that may be having a tough time of it. And if War Song is about to occur, throw Hand of Protection on anyone sitting on or under 50% health, so they won't get immediately killed when War Song goes off.

Spec into Fist of Justice so you can stun an add every time you dodge out to help with adds. This is super helpful for the Ironblades and their whirlwinds.

Lastly, be careful about healing aggro bringing adds into melee that you don't want there. I don't know if this is more than an unfortunate coincidence, but one attempt I was using Eternal Flame and an Ironblade spawned and bee-lined right for me while I was tanking the boss. To be careful, I use Sacred Shield these days. Even if I'm delusional about healing aggro, the damage on tanks isn't intense enough that it matters which talent is used.
The Light and How to Swing It shows paladin tanks how to combat the Sha in the strange new land of Pandaria. Try out the new control gearing strategy, learn how to make the most of the new active mitigation system on your tankadin, and check out how to deck out your fresh 90 tank to get ready for any raids!
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