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Paladin > WoWMar 17, 2015 6:00 pm CT

Lightsworn: Protection 101

In the comments for my introductory column the other week, I had a few folks ask me to write a 101 guide for those new to the spec and tanking in general. Considering this is only the second protection-flavored Lightsworn post, that sounds like an excellent idea!

When I was thinking about how to tackle writing this post, I wanted to do something a little different from the usual 101 stuff you see out there. Being given a procedure to follow can only take some folks so far — ultimately what they may really need to make something click is a digression into the “why” a particular choice is made or action is taken. As I begin below I’m going to go a bit into why I’m telling you to do something a certain way, so it makes as much sense as possible.

I realize that for many folks who have tanked before a lot of this may be old hat. But those who are picking up a shield for the first time could probably benefit from understanding what magic happens when you hit that Reckoning button. There’s definitely value into digging a little deeper in some topics and I want to explore that.

So, that said, I’m going to break this 101 down as follows: All my points here will be introduced in FAQ format because I find answers make more sense to the uninitiated when you see what questions they actually answer. Moreover, I am going to order my points starting with the most basic stuff (positioning, the mechanics of taunting), and then build up to stats, buffs, talents/glyphs, and abilities/cooldowns. I’ll try to layer this post so that each step leads to the next, and hopefully it will make this easier for the new tanks to follow.

The absolute basics

How should I stand relative to the boss?

You want to stand in front of the boss, with your character facing the boss. Your mitigation and avoidance is strongest in the 180 degree arc in front of your character. See this (simple) diagram for a graphical representation:


The green arc is where you can block, parry, and dodge. Open up your character sheet and look at the defense portion of your stats. In mine, for example, I have a 5% chance to dodge and a 20% chance to parry. Whenever a boss takes a melee swing at me, if the boss is positioned in the green zone, there’s a chance that dodge and parry can completely negate damage taken. If the game rolls that the boss will hit me, there’s then a 40% chance that the melee hit will be blocked and the damage of that hit will be reduced.

Now look at the red arc — I have no avoidance or mitigation for attacks coming from that zone, not even dodge. If my back is turned with the boss in that red zone, when the boss swings it will hit me for full damage. Only armor and stamina can help me at that point.

If you are tanking a large group of enemies, it’s important that you keep them all in that green zone, even if it means taking a few steps back to ensure that positioning. Thankfully, enemies are dumb and will not surround you like mooks in an old kung fu movie.

Moreover, for many encounters it’s important to face the boss away from the rest of the group. Certain bosses will do some kind of attack that will hit any players in front of the boss, and you do not want your comrades to be caught in the crossfire.

How should I move relative to the boss, if I have to move while tanking?

Because it’s critical when actively tanking to keep the boss in the green zone, whenever you move you need to retain that optimal positioning. To do this, you need limit movement to only strafing. Go into your Key Bindings menu and unbind Turn Left and Turn Right (defaulted to the A and D keys) and rebind Strafe Left and Strafe Right to those keys instead.

This way, when you have to move during a fight and you are tanking, you can easily do so laterally (sideways) and keep the boss positioned in such a way that your defenses are not weakened. Never turn and run away from the boss as they will punch you right in the back and your healers will finish the job after the wipe with a sack full of doorknobs.

How should I position the camera while I tank?

I tend to tank with the camera zoomed out as far as I can. This gives me a wider view of the room/area in which I am tanking, especially if the boss is gigantic. This is key for any fights with an adds component, as you need to be aware of when additional enemies join the fight.

There is currently a default limit to how far out the camera can be zoomed; though by entering

 /script SetCVar("cameraDistanceMax",30)

in the chat field you can zoom out farther. Change 30 to a larger number to zoom out even farther, if you are so inclined.

I also find it helpful to hold down the right mouse button when tanking, so that the camera stays fixed behind my character (this makes orientation in the fight easier for my brain). Related to the previous question, holding the right mouse button while you strafe will also keep the camera fixed behind your character, and will make it easier to avoid disorientation as you move sideways.

How do taunts actually work?

You probably already know how threat works in general — when Righteous Fury is active your attacks will grab and build the enemy’s attention. When there’s a second tank in the raid setting, this dynamic becomes complicated because both tanks will be competing for threat but only one tank should be actively tanking at a time. Taunts are what allows a hand-off of the boss between tanks, and for paladins that specifically means the Reckoning spell.

Many times during certain encounters you will need to take the attention of the boss from the current tank. By using Reckoning, three things immediately happen:

  • You shoot up to the highest threat against the boss, no matter how low your threat was before.
  • Your threat output is temporarily increased, so that you can build some padding between your threat and the other tank.
  • The boss is fixated on you as a target for three seconds, so that no matter what you do you cannot lose the attention of the boss within those three seconds.

How can I reduce my threat when tanking?

If you are in a situation where you are tanking but should not currently be (for example, you out-threated the active tank and you still have a deadly debuff on you) then you will need to drop back down to second place in threat. There are two quick ways to accomplish this — well, three if you include dying, but let’s not.

The first is to self-cast Hand of Salvation on yourself, which gives your threat a “time out.” Your current threat is reduced to 0 and for the duration of the spell you do not gain additional threat. Once the effect expires, you return to your previous threat level. Be careful, though, as some encounters have mechanics that affect the top two holders of threat and if that second place is not yours, some hapless DPS or healer could be killed.

The other method is to cast Divine Shield or Hand of Protection, which (because you cannot be hit) makes the target ignore you until the effect expires. This is more of a panic button than a real solution.

The basics of buffs and stats

What self-buffs should be active when I am tanking?

You want to have at least one blessing active, your seal (definitely Seal of Insight for survivability; sometimes Seal of Righteousness for damage dealing), and Righteous Fury for threat generation. You also will want to talent into Sacred Shield and keep it up at all times while tanking.

What stats are most important to me?

Stamina is, for obvious reasons, a critical stat, though you won’t have to think about it much.  Gear has a set amount of it depending ilevel of a particular piece. There are gems for it, though those are not the mandatory choice for any gem slots you may have. Strength is also key; but again, its existence is fairly automatic.

The stats you really need to put thought into are your secondary stats. Bonus armor is our bread and butter as it provides immense damage mitigation against physical attacks, as well as a large amount of damage output via Bladed Armor. Any slot that can have bonus armor (neck, cloak, rings, trinkets) should have it.

Your stat priority beyond that follows from the level 100 talent that you have chosen. Theck’s most recent sims detail how the talent choice will change your stat priorities for haste/mastery, but generally you’re looking at haste (to 50%) > mastery > versatility > critical strike = multistrike.

So how should I enchant or gem my gear?

For your weapon, use Mark of Blackrock for the chance at more bonus armor. For just about everything else haste is a safe bet, though that depends on how much haste you have and (as mentioned) your level 100 talent choice.

But what is so great about haste? How much is too much?

Haste is awesome thanks to the passive ability, Sanctity of Battle. Because of it, any haste we have lowers the cooldown (time before you can use an ability next after using it) and global cooldown (time before you can use any ability after using an ability) for our major attacks: Crusader Strike, Hammer of the Righteous, Judgment, Consecration, Holy Wrath, Hammer of Wrath, and Avenger’s Shield.

Included in that list are all of our holy power-generating abilities. This means that the more haste we have, the faster we can generate holy power, and the more often we can use Shield of the Righteous — and THAT means that the the damage reduction buff from Shield of the Righteous will be up more often. Therefore, more haste directly results in increased survivability, provided you are pressing your buttons often enough.

There’s a catch, though, as haste can only reduce the global cooldown to a minimum of one second. Beyond that floor, haste loses a lot of its value in simulations. This is why, if specced into Empowered Seals, haste is in third place behind bonus armor and mastery — you’ll have so much haste that you’re likely going to hit that 50% global cooldown floor.

Are tertiary stats worth it?

If you are evaluating two of the same exact piece of gear, one with a gem slot, and one with a tertiary stat, go for the one with the gem slot. Tertiary stats are nice bonuses, but they are always weaker than primary or secondary stats.

How should I talent?

Talenting is generally a personal thing though there are some safe bets. Sacred Shield is the best option in its tier, and Unbreakable Spirit is so widely useful that you’ll be using it 90% of the time. Those two are just about the only two “mandatory” talents.

Divine Purpose is also often the best choice for survivability in its tier, though you can’t sneeze at the damage output and convenience of Sanctified Wrath. Thankfully, the 90 and 100 tier give you more wiggle room depending on your personal priorities. Especially the 100 tier, where all three options are pretty viable, though some are situationally stronger than others (for example, Holy Shield for add fights and Seraphim for fights where tank DPS is important).

How should I (major) glyph?

We are blessed with many viable options for glyphing, and many situational options depending on the encounter. Situational choices, obviously, depend on the fight but you can generally get by with Glyph of Divine Protection, Glyph of Ardent Defender, and Glyph of the Consecrator (my default kit). Glyph of Focused Shield is also a great choice for damage output on a single-target fight, and Glyph of Final Wrath is great for damage output when specced into Sanctified Wrath.


The basics of the rotation and abilities

How do I want to use holy power?

Holy power is generated through most of your main attacks: Crusader Strike, Hammer of the Righteous, Avenger’s Shield (via Grand Crusader), Judgment, Holy Wrath (if talented into Sanctified Wrath). You never want to generate more than the five holy power cap because those will be wasted. As a result, whenever you have five holy power you want to use Shield of the Righteous to spend three. Thankfully Shield of the Righteous is off the global cooldown, which means you can use the ability anytime you have the resources for it.

Doing so will generate charges of Bastion of Glory, which also caps at five. If you need a quick heal, you can spend holy power on Word of Glory, which is boosted by each stack of Bastion of Glory you have (as well as Resolve, though you do not directly control the stacking of that). Try to avoid using Word of Glory until you have five stacks of Bastion of Glory, if possible, as you’ll get the most “bang for your buck” for that holy power you spent.

You also can use five holy power to activate Seraphim, if talented that way. Moreover, if you are talented into Seraphim, you want to maintain the maximum uptime possible and thus want to refresh Seraphim whenever the cooldown is up.

What attacks should be on my action bars?

  • Your holy power generators: Crusader Strike, Hammer of the Righteous, Avenger’s Shield, Judgment, Holy Wrath
  • Main attacks that do not generate holy power like Consecration and Hammer of Wrath
  • Your lvl 90 talent choice: Light’s Hammer, Holy Prism, Execution Sentence
  • Any cooldowns and holy power spenders like Word of Glory, Shield of the Righteous, Divine Protection, etc. (See below for a complete list.)
  • Utility abilities like your Hand spells (more on this coming in my next post)

What order should I use my abilities in?

The attack priority for single-target is (to simplify it) Grand Crusader procs > Shield of the Righteous > Crusader Strike > Holy Wrath (with Sanctified Wrath) > Judgment > Execution Sentence > Avenger’s Shield > Hammer of Wrath > Light’s Hammer = Holy Prism > Consecration > Holy Wrath (without Sanctified Wrath).

For AoE tanking the priority is generally the same; however, Holy Wrath drops in potency and Consecration increases. Likewise, you want to use Hammer of the Righteous over Crusader Strike.

What cooldowns do I have and when should I use them?

Proper use of cooldowns is the best way to ensure your survivability when facing dangerous enemies. Using the right cooldown at the right time is the best way to stay on two feet! Cooldowns have nuances which make some better at certain points than others.

Shield of the Righteous is part of your rotation but it’s also a cooldown at heart. You can time it when you expect a large physical damage hit in the next three seconds to mitigate a big part of that damage. For example, use Shield of the Righteous right before you eat an Inferno Slice on Gruul. Proper timing of this ability can make a BIG difference in your survivability.

Word of Glory is another spender/cooldown and should be used after big hits (hopefully with five stacks of Bastion of Glory) to quickly top off your health bar before the boss’ next melee attack comes in and tries to finish you off.

Seraphim is our third holy power spender, though while you could use it as a cooldown (time the bonus armor buff strategically, for example) you likely will not want to. Because the cooldown is so short you want to keep Seraphim up as often as possible, recasting the ability as soon as its cooldown is up.

Divine Protection has a short cooldown (even shorter when talented into Unbreakable Spirit) and should be used like the dead vote in Chicago — early and often. Unglyphed it’s 40% off the top of a magical attack; glyphed it’s 20% off magical and physical attacks. Whenever there’s an attack coming every 30 or 60 seconds, you can line Divine Protection up to take the edge off.

Ardent Defender is another cooldown that you can glyph. Unglyphed it’s worth 20% mitigation to all damage and a cheat death, if an incoming hit would kill you. Glyphed you only get the cheat death, but on a minute cooldown if you would not have actually died while AD was active. Both options are useful depending on the encounter, but I find myself running with AD glyphed more often than not because I appreciate the more frequent safety net.

Guardian of Ancient Kings is our most powerful cooldown, cutting 50% of all incoming damage for a significant period of time. Best used if something goes horribly wrong (a healer dying, perhaps) or some other situation where you’re going to be in immediate danger for a longer period of time. The cooldown is too long to use frequently in a fight, so save this for emergencies.

Divine Shield is a counter-intuitive example of a cooldown. While it will drop the boss’ attention if you are actively tanking, it can also block all damage from most attacks. You can taunt right before using DS to keep the boss’ attention, but then you need to cancel the immunity effect before the taunt’s fixate falls off.

Lay on Hands is a good “extra life” button when death is imminent. Just be careful to watch out for the Forbearance debuff it will afflict you with.

Holy Avenger is one of your talented cooldowns. It can allow you to burst Shield of the Righteous for a short period of time, guaranteeing physical damage reduction for a decent window. Its value also comes from damage output, much like Seraphim.

Draenic Armor Potion isn’t really a cooldown and yet, because it’s also a big chunk of bonus armor for a long period of time, it can be treated as one. It’s definitely worth using strategically during a fight as a way to shave some physical damage off, as well as boost your own damage output.

Healing Tonic benefits from Resolve just like Word of Glory and it’s a smart move to keep a stack of those potions in your bags for an emergency. After a big hit, one tonic can heal you back to full with enough Resolve. These do not share a cooldown with your armor pots.

Next time: some advanced topics

This is getting lengthy, so that’ll have to wait for next time. There are some important topics that I want to touch on, though! Specifically: the importance of UI set up to maximize situational awareness, helpful Weak Auras to improve awareness of your buffs, as well as a number of tricks of the trade. I’ll also make an impassioned cri de coeur in favor of keybinding,so brace yourselves, keyboard-turners.

Hopefully this is a good first step, though, and gets some new tanks more comfortable with strapping on that shield for the first time. If there’s anything obvious I forgot, or anything you want to see covered next time, please let me know in the comments!

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