A Paladin tanking blog for the reshaped World of Warcraft.

A Primer to Tankadin-ing in 4.0

When in doubt, round ’em up and Consecrate. Okay, see you next post!

Seriously, though, over the past week or so, I’ve gotten requests from another Tankadin in my guild to help identify ways that he can improve his performance, because he seemed to notice a drop-off in his threat generation after 4.0 hit. People that may not keep up to date with the latest theorycraft may be shocked to learn that even the most fundamental aspects of Tankadin gearing, glyphing, and speccing changed in the transition to 4.0 — requiring almost a complete relearn of everything you thought you knew! Now, things that didn’t matter before (or were even outright poor choices) in terms of stats, talents, or abilities are now quite viable and may even be the preferable route to take in some cases. So, what’s changed, then? Without further ado, let’s get down to it, as there’s a lot to cover.

As always, for the most in-depth (and up-to-date!) detail, check out the links in the “Tankadin 101” section of this blog’s sidebar, which will give you all of the information that you’ll need in case when this article goes out of date.

Holy Power

Most Paladins who’ve logged in since 4.0 should already be familiar with this — but for those of you who either haven’t logged in since the big patch or have just been standing around in Dalaran /flexing all day, I’ll give a brief primer on what the new Holy Power system is all about. Basically, Holy Power is like a Rogue’s combo points, except with two key difference: 1) the combo points stack on you, not your target, so you can switch targets (or go out of combat) without losing your points; and 2) you only have a maximum of 3 combo points instead of 5. Just like Rogues, each Paladin spec now has one or more “combo point generators,” as well as one or more “finishers” which consume all of your accumulated combo points to proportionally boost the finisher’s effectiveness. For Tankadins, our combo point generators are Crusader Strike and Hammer of the Righteous, and our finishers are Shield of the Righteous (a big-damage single-target attack), Word of Glory (a reasonably-sized heal that can be boosted with optional Prot talents), and at level 81, Inquisition (a temporary damage buff, kind of like Avenging Wrath).

The Rotation

The old faithful Tankadin rotation for most of Wrath, dubbed “969,” is no more. Crusader Strike has been made a baseline ability for all Paladins, and is intended to be our Holy Power generator for single-target situations, while Hammer of the Righteous is our Holy Power generator for most multi-target situations. Since both of these abilities are now on a 3-second cooldown, they can be used much more often than the 6-second abilities in the old 969 rotation. The rotation now can be dubbed “939,” but I think that’s a little bit confusing. Basically, you’ll use your Holy Power generator ability whenever it’s available. For all intents and purposes, any time you have 3 combo points, you will use a finishing move like ShoR or WoG. If neither of these things are true, then you’ll use whatever of these three abilities are available, in order of preference: Judgement, Avenger’s Shield, Holy Wrath. (That’s right, Avenger’s Shield and Holy Wrath are actual staples of our main rotation now.) If you want to think of it as a priority system, you could write it like this:

Finisher (3 CP only) > CS/HotR > Judgement > AS > HW

I personally like laying my keybinds out like this to make it easy to commit to muscle memory:

1: Crusader Strike
2: Judgement
3: Avenger’s Shield
4: Holy Wrath
5: Shield of the Righteous
6: Word of Glory
Q: Hammer of the Righteous

So basically, my single-target rotation is going to be 1-2-1-3-1-5, 1-4-1-2-1-5, 1-3-1-4-1-5, etc. If I need heals or am way ahead on threat, I’ll swap in Word of Glory for the ShoRs wherever needed. By putting Hammer of the Righteous on Q, I can swap that in very easily to grab onto an extra target or two if I need to on a trash pull, if we get an add, etc. For large AoE packs, though, you’ll want to use a slightly different rotation that prioritizes Consecration and Holy Wrath.

As with all rotations for any class, try it out on a target dummy for as long as it takes for you to become completely comfortable with it. You want to be able to pound out this rotation while concentrating on other things, while moving the boss, while picking up adds, while calling out orders to raid members, or anything else that might require your attention. Be able to do it with your eyes closed. Be able to do it in your head even when you’re away from your computer. You get the idea.

The Spec

You’re much less likely to have a wonky spec after 4.0 because the total number of talents in the tree is now so much lower than it was before, but it’s still possible. The key talents that you want to make absolutely sure you get are Judgements of the Just (which is essentially unchanged from the way it was pre-4.0, but it’s still every bit as good), Sanctuary, Wrath of the Lightbringer, Vindication, Holy Shield, Sacred Duty, and all of the “ability” talents (the ones with the thicker borders). The only talents that you almost definitely want to avoid are Hallowed Ground and anything in the Holy tree.

For reference, here’s my current spec at the time of this article. It’s basically a combination threat (Crusade and 1/2 Seals of the Pure) and survivability (Eternal Glory, Guarded By the Light) build. I opted to skip Grand Crusader because at the moment, the math seems to indicate that it’s lower TPS than most of our other talent options, so I chose to use those points on talents that would boost Word of Glory’s effectiveness instead. I also consider Improved Judgement immeasurably useful, as it gives you another ranged tool that can be extremely useful in a variety of situations, such as picking up adds or improving your threat-generating capabilities outside of melee range (Prince Keleseth or Dark Nuclei on Blood Princes, ooze kiting on Rotface, almost any trash pull or boss fight where you get unexpected adds, etc). For more spec configurations and suggestions, check out the Talent & Glyph Guide link in the “Tankadin 101” section of the sidebar.

The Glyphs

Almost all of our glyphs are completely different now, but you may not have noticed that many of your old glyphs carried over to the new glyph system, even if they are no longer appropriate or even desirable. So check your glyphs, and swap them around if necessary! Remember that you can swap your glyphs any time you want for the cost of only a Vanishing Powder, so don’t worry about the cost of buying a glyph from the auction house. You’ll only have to buy each glyph once, ever! You can afford it.

Glyphs to get:

  • [Prime] Shield of the Righteous: no-brainer here, it’s amazingly good. Get it and keep it equipped.
  • [Prime] Seal of Truth: as long as it’s beneficial to use Seal of Truth (that is, as long as you’re below the expertise hard cap from your gear alone), this provides an absolutely huge threat benefit. Use it, and use Seal of Truth at all times.
  • [Prime] Your third prime slot has some flexibility. You could use Crusader Strike or Judgement for a small single-target threat boost. You could use Hammer of the Righteous, but current math seems to indicate that it’s broken and only affects the single-target portion (not the AoE portion), which makes it terrible until it’s fixed. You could use Word of Glory if you want extra oomph to your self-heals. I personally run with Word of Glory unless I absolutely need to squeeze every drop of TPS out of my glyphs that I can, in which case I’d switch to Crusader Strike or Judgement.
  • [Major] Focused Shield: for single-target boss fights only, that is. This glyph is an immense threat boost to your Avenger’s Shield, but it kills the spell’s utility on trash or multi-target situations. Keep lots of powder on hand to switch this glyph in and out as you need it.
  • [Major] Divine Protection: you won’t often need this glyph, but when you do need it, it may very well save your life. It makes Divine Protection useless for physical damage, but it increases its magic defense to a whopping 40%. This is fantastic in magic-heavy fights, quite obviously. Don’t use it all the time, but like the previous glyph, swap it in when you need it.
  • [Major] Holy Wrath: may only really be useful on trash, but Cataclysm is looking to be full of Dragonkin and Elementals, so it’ll likely be a lifesaver in dungeons and on raid trash. Grab it, there aren’t many other full-time major glyph candidates.
  • [Major] Salvation: also very situational, but worth keeping in your bag of tricks. This changes Hand of Salvation to reduce the target’s threat to 0% for its duration, but restores all of the target’s threat once it fades, rather than reducing the target’s threat permanently. May be useful in two situations: 1) when you want to immediately shut down a DPSer’s threat in the case of a crit streak, or 2) when you need to perform a tank switch and want to prevent yourself from accidentally pulling aggro back from the other tank from residual DoTs or similar effects.
  • [Major] Consecration: for AoE pulls and trash only. Enough said, really.
  • [Minor] Lay on Hands: the only real useful minor glyph. Get it.
  • [Minor] Blessing of Kings/Might: you’re bound to cast these spells more often than your Seals, so I’d recommend getting these two minor glyphs over the alternatives to round out your set.

Glyphs to avoid:

  • [Prime] Hammer of the Righteous: as mentioned above, it’s kind of broken at the moment. It only affects the single-target portion of the spell, which, because HotR is our AoE go-to ability, means this glyph kind of sucks in its current state.

The Gear

First, let’s run down what stats are now good for Tankadins. For threat generation, in order of priority, we have Expertise up to the first cap (26 Expertise skill), then Hit up to the 8% melee hit cap, then Expertise up to the second cap (56 Expertise skill), then Strength after that. You’re unlikely to be at the Expertise hard cap unless you’re in excellent gear, so in most cases, Expertise is a good stat to shoot for on threat gear. For survivability, not too much has changed, but there are still things to note. The heated Agility/Dodge debate of old is now moot, as Agility has been nerfed as a tanking stat — it no longer grants armor, and its Dodge contribution has been reduced. The diminishing returns curves for Dodge and Parry are now identical, so Parry is now actually a more desirable stat than Dodge, assuming your Dodge and Parry percentages are roughly equal. While I won’t delve too deeply into the notion of block-capping, I will mention that Mastery is a good stat for survivability purposes — it increases your chance to block, which in turn will help smooth out your incoming damage a bit, and your healers will have less heart attacks.

Back to the topic of threat generation for a moment, it’s important to note that while weapon speed never really made too big of a difference for us before, it seems that slow, hard-hitting weapons are where it’s at now, especially since white damage now plays a larger role in our threat than it ever has before. One unfortunate corollary to this is that if you were using a good-quality tanking weapon before, your threat may now be suffering simply because the weapon’s speed is on the faster side (below 2.0) because weapon speed now actually means something. If you can get away with it (and aren’t hurting for tank stats), using a strong, slow DPS weapon is an acceptable alternative to a traditional tank weapon. The Heroic Gutbuster that I’m currently using is a fairly good example of a DPS weapon that also delivers excellent TPS in the hands of a Tankadin. If you do find yourself using a DPS weapon, you can reforge a less-desirable stat (say, crit rating) into a better one (expertise) to try to optimize it a bit for a tanking role.

When it comes to gems, all of our old best-bet gem cuts are either gone, different colors, or no longer desirable stats. Defense is now gone. Dodge is now yellow. Hit is now blue. Mastery gems, while not currently in the game, will be yellow when they are implemented. And so forth. In a nutshell, here’s some good candidates for gems if you’re looking to match socket bonuses:

Blue: Stamina (possibly Hit for threat pieces)
Red: Parry/Stamina, Parry, Expertise, Expertise/Stamina, etc.
Yellow: Dodge/Stamina, Dodge, Mastery (Cataclysm only), Mastery/Stamina (Cataclysm only), etc.

Based on the current state of the Cataclysm Beta, it appears that Stamina will be much less of a big deal in Cataclysm than it is in ICC. It seems as though we’ll want to have a balanced set of stats, between avoidance (Dodge/Parry) and effective health (Stamina/Armor), while likely attempting to increase our block chance (Mastery) as much as possible. It seems that it will be much more difficult to reach the block cap in Cataclysm, because Holy Shield is being changed to no longer give a +15% block chance, but instead a +10% block value (making our shield blocks block for 40% reduction instead of 30%). The designers’ stated goal in making this change was so that “block capping” was not something that all Tankadins felt pressured to do, and also that it would not be something that encounters would have to be balanced around. In the end, it’s probably a positive change for all involved.


Well, that about wraps up this post. This turned out to be a much more lengthy post than I had originally intended it to be, but oh well. If even one budding (or returning) Tankadin finds this information useful or learns something they didn’t know before, it’ll have been worth the time I spent writing it.


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