Take a journey forward through time with me here. Not by much, just by a couple weeks. At long last, you’re level 85. You’ve quested through the seas, the earth, the sands, and the skies. You’ve conquered a few dungeons along the way, and have a decent collection of nice equipment and trophies to show for it. The next sight on your horizon is raids. What should you do to ensure that you’re as prepared as possible? What sorts of resources are available to you to get prepared for the challenges you’ll face? The easy-mode days of Wrath farming are now over (for now); tanks who have done their homework will once again be set apart from those who seem to have merely clicked the “Protection” button on their talent sheet by accident. You want to press forward into the new raid dungeons as a shining example of preparation and steadfast fearlessness — act the part. Ideally, you should aim to be in full 346-level blue gear before stepping into raids, with a few scattered pieces of 359-level epics from crafting or faction rewards. This guide’s intention is to help get you there.
During the natural course of questing in the new Cataclysm zones, you will discover new factions and begin earning reputation with each of them. By the time you reach level 85, you will probably be at least Honored with all of the factions, and potentially even reach Revered with one or two. Once you reach level 85, it may be worth turning your attention to maxing out your faction reputations as soon as possible — doing so will enable you to purchase the following pieces of gear for little more than a song.
Guardians of Hyjal Exalted: [Wrap of the Great Turtle] (359 Back)
Therazane Revered: [Felsen’s Ring of Resolve] (346 Finger)
Ramkahen Revered: [Red Rock Band] (346 Finger)
Ramkahen Exalted: [Sandguard Bracers] (359 Wrist)
Dragonmaw/Wildhammer Revered: [Grinning Fang Helm]/[Crown of Wings] (346 Head)
Dragonmaw/Wildhammer Exalted: [Boots of Sullen Rock]/[Gryphon Rider’s Boots] (359 Feet)
Most of the epic gear on this list requires one or more Chaos Orbs to create, which at the current time are bind-on-pickup drops from Heroic dungeon end-bosses (think Primal Nether and Frozen Orbs, before they were made tradeable). This will mean that the crafter (if you’re enlisting the services of another crafter to make them for you) will have to supply their own orbs, which will significantly drive up the prices for these items for the first few months (and especially the opening weeks) of the expansion. If you want to buy many of the epic-level pieces in this list, be prepared to pay a lot of gold to do so if you cannot craft them yourself.
Neck: [Elementium Guardian] (Jewelcrafting)
Cloak: [Twilight Dragonscale Cloak] (Leatherworking)
Chest: [Hardened Elementium Hauberk] (Blacksmithing)
Waist: [Hardened Elementium Girdle] (Blacksmithing)
Finger: [Elementium Mobius Band] (Jewelcrafting)
Shield: [Elementium Earthguard] (Blacksmithing)
BoP Alchemy: [Lifebound Alchemist Stone] (359 Trinket)
BoP Engineering: [Reinforced Bio-Optic Killshades] (359 Head)
BoP Jewelcrafting: [Figurine – Earthen Guardian] (346 Trinket)
BoP Jewelcrafting: [Figurine – King of Boars] (346 Trinket)
Justice Point Gear
Depending on how much preparation you’ve done ahead of time, you may or may not be sitting on a cache of Justice Points when you reach level 85 (the cap at level 80 is 4000, so that’s the most you can realistically expect to bring forward into Cataclysm). If you happen to be sitting on some points, you’ll be able to pick up a piece or two right off the bat. If not, you’ll be able to earn Justice Points fairly quickly through Heroic dungeons. In either case, here are the pieces that you’ll want to be aware of. As always, your choices here should be dependent on what pieces of your gear set most need to be replaced. In most cases, your lowest-level gear should be replaced first, unless you can easily get a replacement piece elsewhere, such as via crafting or reputation rewards. You’ll get the most value out of your Justice Points by using them last, to fill in the gaps in your gear set once you’ve gotten whatever reputation and crafted gear you can.
All Justice Point gear is item level 346, which is equivalent to Heroic dungeon drops.
Head: [Helm of the Proud] (2200 JP)
Neck: [The Lustrous Eye] (1250 JP)
Shoulders [Avoidance]: [Sunburnt Pauldrons] (1650 JP)
Shoulders [Threat]: [Pauldrons of the High Requiem] (1650 JP)
Chest: [Chestplate of the Steadfast] (2200 JP)
Hands: [Numbing Handguards] (1650 JP)
Waist: [Girdle of the Mountains] (1650 JP)
Legs: [Greaves of Splendor] (2200 JP)
Shield: [Shield of the Four Grey Towers] (950 JP)
Once you’ve got a set of mostly 346/359 gear put together, kit it out with some blue-quality gems and the best enchants you can afford (see the “Gem & Enchant Guide” link in the sidebar for specifics on those), and you should be ready to tackle anything that Nefarian, Cho’gall, or Al’Akir can throw at you! Good luck!
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, say you’re like me, and you want to take a balanced approach to your progression from level 80 to 85. You’d like to level as Prot, solo quest a bit, run some dungeons here and there, perhaps do a little bit of crafting, and otherwise experience all there is to experience as you go along. In your travels, you’re likely to come across a large handful of gear upgrades from quests rather naturally, but do you know all the dungeon loot tables? What about those dungeon quests that you always seem to only learn about after you’ve already completed the dungeon? I’ve constructed a list of many of the standout tank pieces that you can expect to obtain from either dungeon quests or dungeon drops in roughly the first half or so of your journey to level 85, so you can identify the “key” pieces that you may want to be certain not to miss during your adventures.
Keep in mind that while all of these items can be obtained by level 82, I can’t guarantee that they’ll be easy to obtain, especially the Vortex Pinnacle loot. You may need to level a bit more for some of these if your group is having trouble surviving the dungeons.
[Raz’s Breastplate] – Chest, ilvl 279, Blackrock Caverns
This nice-quality chestpiece comes from “Ascendant Lord Incendius,” a quest to kill the final boss of the new Blackrock Caverns instance, a level 80-82 dungeon. Wowhead doesn’t yet seem to indicate where this quest begins, but that information should be added as we get closer to release and their database becomes more complete. By doing one run through this dungeon, you are guaranteed a nice 279-level chestpiece, which should do you quite well until you pick up something better a few levels later.
[Shield of the Iron Maiden] – Shield, ilvl 279, Blackrock Caverns
This shield is a drop from Rom’ogg Bonecrusher, the first boss of Blackrock Caverns. While likely not a huge upgrade for anyone coming from Wrath (especially with the 270 PvP shield being only 70 honor points), it’s a solid piece regardless. Mastery rating is always nice to have, too.
[Beauty’s Plate] – Chest, ilvl 279, Blackrock Caverns
While the previously-mentioned Raz’s Breastplate is guaranteed for you upon a successful Blackrock Caverns clear, an alternative exists in Beauty’s Plate, a drop from Beauty (duh) in the same dungeon. This one has heaps of Parry and Mastery on it, which makes this a very solid survivability piece.
[Stalagmite Dragon] – Relic, ilvl 316, Stonecore
This relic is a drop from the boss Slabhide in Stonecore, the dungeon within Deepholm. Seeing as relics are relatively few and far between, tanking relics especially, this may be one that you don’t want to miss.
[Phosphorescent Ring] – Finger, ilvl 316, Stonecore
This ring also comes from Stonecore, this time from the boss Corborus. With a load of Stamina, Parry, and Expertise on it, this looks to have a good balance between survivability and threat stats.
[Magnetite Mirror] – Trinket, ilvl 316, Stonecore
This thing sports a whopping 215 Expertise rating, and will quite likely be a very solid threat trinket. The Strength Use effect won’t do too much for us as Strength isn’t as good as it used to be, but it’ll still up our threat by a not-insignificant amount. You may have to fight with your melee DPS over this one, though.
[Leaden Despair] – Trinket, ilvl 316, Stonecore
This is another one of those really nice survivability trinkets in the vein of the Commendation of Kael’thas or The Black Heart, with loads of Stamina and an automatic survivability proc that gives you a boost of armor when you need it. Definitely will be one worth picking up.
[Elementium Fang] – Sword, ilvl 316, Stonecore
I love the model for this thing. Great stats (avoidance and Mastery) in addition to a nice 2.60 speed make this a definite candidate for a solid tanking weapon. Between this and the above items, I can see myself running Stonecore several times to try to pick up all of the great drops that seem to come from there.
[Darksky Treads] – Feet, ilvl 316, Vortex Pinnacle (BoE)
On the down side, these are Bind on Equip, so you may have angry group members that want an equal shot at these so they can sell them. On the up side, these are Bind on Equip. Even if you can’t get them as a drop, you can plan on buying these on the Auction House if you so choose.
[Headcover of Fog] – Head, ilvl 316, Vortex Pinnacle
This helm is a drop from Grand Vizier Ertan, a boss in Vortex Pinnacle. It’s got quite a load of Hit on it, but seeing how a lot of our other pieces from this gear level don’t seem to have much Hit on them, it may be very nice to have. Lots of Parry and Stamina round out this piece.
[Band of the Dead End] – Finger, ilvl 316, Vortex Pinnacle
This ring comes from a quest to kill one of the bosses of Vortex Pinnacle, Grand Vizier Ertan. Luckily, the quest is issued right inside the instance entrance (think Utgarde Keep), so it’s all but impossible to miss this one.
[Greaves of Orsis] – Legs, ilvl 316, Vortex Pinnacle
These legplates come from a quest to kill the final boss of Vortex Pinnacle, Asaad. Just as with the above ring, you obtain this quest inside the instance entrance, so you should have no problem finding this one.
Check back later for a follow-up article!