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The Light and How to Swing It: Everything tankadins need to know for 5.4

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.

With Blizzard's not-confirmed, delayed, and then for-reals confirmed release date for the Siege of Orgrimmar patch now finally looming in the very near future, this seems as good a time as any to actually sit down and compile and digest the trickle of changes that have steadily been dripping out of the PTR. In previous posts I've talked about the biggest changes as they were first revealed, and since then there have been some even bigger changes, thanks to the numbers pass and its requisite tweaks.

All in all, despite a few nerfs, protection paladins are still sitting pretty. We've got some of the best tanking mechanics in the game, we still have haste as a (powerful and viable) option for gearing, and we still have a wide and varied toolbox at our disposal. This expansion has been very good to us, and this patch does little to change that!

That said, let's dive in and take a look at the details.

Changes to threat generation

Blizzard made a concerted effort with this patch to reduce the ability of some tanks (usually those at the higher levels of content) to game Vengeance for extra DPS. To whit, Vengeance will give less attack power for damage taken (from 1.8% to 1.5%) and further you can no longer be "clever" and use tricks like standing in fire or sitting while taking -- to force the enemy to crit you -- to pump up your Vengeance.

In addition, diminishing returns now apply when tanking more than one enemy, where each additional mob in the pile will generate progressively less Vengeance (and thus less attack power). This is to prevent one-tank strategies for fights like Tortos where the lone tank would get bats and the boss, and pump out absurd quantities of DPS because they are taking so much damage, so often, from so many sources.

Thankfully these changes will not apply in challenge modes, so those won't be getting any harder with the patch.

On the bright side, taunts were changed to give a 200% threat boost for a short period of time to the taunting tank. I don't know about your raids, but I found myself constantly at risk of pulling the boss off of my death knight cotank whenever he taunted off of me, to the point where I got in the habit of casting Hand of Salvation on myself during swaps. This has been a widespread complaint of the Vengeance system (that is makes swaps shakey) and I'm hoping that this taunt change will be enough to mitigate that once and for all. If it works correctly, this will be a massive quality of life improvement.

Changes to healing and survivability

The most dramatic (and instantly horrifying) change of the numbers pass the other week was easily when Sacred Shield was nerfed to be 30% less effective for prot. Considering that the vast majority of protection paladins were using that talent, it makes sense, but it burns nonetheless. Concurrently, Eternal Flame's heal-over-time was buffed by 40% which rocketed it to what may be the best choice in that talent tier.

As I understand it, the thinking with Eternal Flame is that if you have enough haste to generate four to five Bastion of Glory stacks within thirty seconds (which shouldn't be that hard at this point), then it's advantageous to keep Eternal Flame rolling on yourself and refresh it when you max out your BoG stacks again, just before the HoT falls off. Likewise, this playstyle synergizes really well with the 2pT15 bonus, guaranteeing a ~45% uptime on the block chance buff.

Here's a great post at maintankadin where Theck goes over some numbers with regards to using EF in 5.4.

Regardless, some may find it hard to give up the option of using Word of Glory as a cooldown/heal-bomb to recover from a sudden burst in damage taken. So this won't be a mandatory playstyle change for everybody, there's still great value to the WoG-as-a-cooldown way of life.

In a similar vein to the topic of self-healing, Seal of Insight was changed so that it doesn't give mana any more when it procs, only heals. This doesn't make it any less useful for tanking (Guarded by the Light was buffed to cover any mana loss from the SoI change), so don't suddenly switch to tanking with Seal of Truth!

Changes to utility

The most depressing change of 5.4 is likely the nerf to Glyph of the Battle Healer. This is old hat, so I won't go too far into it again -- but suffice it say, when 5.4 launches, you can dust off the cobwebs and brush off the general crustiness that has accumulated over that slot in your glyphs page and swap GotBH out for perhaps the first time his expansion. It's terribly sad.

A nice of quality of life change is that Crusader Strike will now apply Weakened Blows, meaning that you don't need to weave Hammer of the Righteous in every 30 seconds any longer, the debuff will just find its way up there on its own.

And the remainder

For the sake of brevity, I won't repeat previous posts with regards to the older PTR changes. Those have already been discussed. In summation:

  • For the other talents changes, particularly to Sanctified Wrath and Unbreakable Spirit, you can get the skinny in this post.
  • There are a handful of new glyphs, both minor and major. And no, none of them are particularly exciting. I had a whole post dedicated to discussing those and what they might mean for how you glyph in 5.4, which you can check out here.
  • Last but not least, patch 5.4 will see the debut of the new Proving Grounds feature. I'm looking forward to testing out my tanking chops in there. Hopefully, likewise, it'll be a helpful source of practice and positive reinforcement for any new tanks moving forward!
Anyway, with all that said, bring on the patch! Am I the only sick to death of trolls, arcing electricity, and mounds of bat guano at this point? It's time to break down the gates of Orgrimmar and rip Garrosh from his throne of bones. (And to get some new gear, with even more haste!).
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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