Status report, Mr. Spock – also, how do I use this cooldown?

I’m aware I haven’t posted here in what feels like forever, but that’s just the way things are, I’m afraid. I’m not the kind of blogger who can assure you they’ll have something to rant about at least once a week. I’m steadfastly dedicated to ensuring this blog stays on the topic of World of Warcraft, with possible deviations for other related MMOs, so if I’m not feeling the “itch” to talk about something, then there’s only so much I can put here.

To recap what’s happened between then and now, we’ve successfully crossed the bridge into the realm of 4.2 – aka, the Firelands. Far Riders successfully downed Cho’gall pre-patch, and on our first day post-patch, we downed Nefarian and Al’akir (despite it being our first attempt at Al’akir at all). On our last raid night, we got the pat from hell (also known as Shannox, I hear… but I prefer my name for him) down to somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-2mil HP. I admittedly wasn’t paying his health as much mind as I was systematically popping all the cooldowns I had for myself to level out any incoming damage and to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic death for my companions. I obviously didn’t succeed in that regard ^_^’

How exactly do I use cooldowns?

But the “systematic popping” of my cooldowns brings me to a topic that’s been bugging me lately. I’ve recently been assisting a guildie with their tankadin alt, and on several occasions, the topic of rotation for both spells and cooldowns came up. I gave her my opinions relating to spell rotation (and also pointed her to Rhidach’s site, since he was a big help to me when I first began as a paladin tank), and in regards to cooldowns, I provided a simple answer: “Just be sure you’re not using Ancient Kings and Divine Prot at the same time.” In reality, the truth is much more complex, and the proper use of cooldowns can make or break you as a pally tank. In my personal opinion, the sheer variety of CDs we have is what makes us the most versatile tank on the market, but too often, I see folks using these skills post-damage instead of in anticipation of a huge hit. This article sums up the topic I feel, but to put it in my own words, we have the toughest job in the raid: being clairvoyants. We need to know the fight, and I mean know it well! While there will always be a degree of flexibility to fights, thanks to our good friend RNG, there’s an underlying flow to how fights work, and tankadins need to use that to pick where there CDs will have the most effect, and then put them into play.

A good example (that most people know by now, I’m sure) is Nefarian’s Electrocute – otherwise known as “crackle.” The activation of this ability is easy to anticipate, as long as your raid’s dps is steady, and there are numerous things pally tanks can do to help their healers out here. For the raid itself, we have Divine Guardian, and while 20% doesn’t seem like much, you can easily prevent ~25k damage to your nearby raiders; this naturally requires some positioning on the tank’s part, but that’s half the job, I’m afraid. For ourselves, we again have Divine Protection, but more importantly we have Ancient Kings. Like I mentioned above, the key is to NOT use these abilities together, as their damage reduction doesn’t stack. And while many tankadins would argue that we should be using Divine Prot on CD, I’d argue this isn’t the case in some fights. Following the example of Nefarian, it can be awfully tempting to use the ability on CD for many portions of the fight, but you can smooth out your incoming damage (and make your healer’s life easier!) if you focus it’s use. I tank Ony in phase 1, and I find the best time to use Divine Prot is for her breath attack and/or when you have her turned for her lightning attack. The breath is massive damage and during the turn, it can be more difficult for your healer to keep you up, so using this CD for either will help them immensely. Another applicable CD for the breath, if you have the correct trinket, is to pop your Mirror. This provides a large magic resistance boost, which can easily be the difference between life and death, if the situation is dire.

Paladins also have several abilities that many wouldn’t inherently call a “cooldown” but can certainly serve in that capacity, given the right situation. One such ability is Avenger’s Shield, due to it’s interrupt capability. Yes, we still have Rebuke, which should be our “go to” interrupt, but on fights where interrupts are important and interruptable spells occur often, we need to manage when we use AS. Cho’gall’s Conversion is an excellent example of this because most of the classes that have long range interrupts don’t have one that has a measly 15sec cooldown (less, if Grand Crusader procs). Besides the interrupt ability, we also need to be sure to use a grand crusader proc’d shield AFTER we use Crusader Strike/Hammer of the Righteous. After all, if you miss with CS/HotR, then you’ll get no holy power but can fill the 3sec gap with the AS (which gives you holy power even if you miss, or so I’ve seen). If you used the AS first and followed with a missed CS/HotR, then you’ll have 3sec that you have to fill with a non-HP generating ability.

Word of Glory is another spell that many wouldn’t consider a cooldown; in fact, many paladins felt it was nothing but a nerf, when Blizzard added the 20sec cooldown. Although I do agree that it nerfed are ability to be an “off-healer,” I want to point out that this makes it much more important to manage when we use the skill. If you know that a big hit’s coming up, then can use WoG; even if you’re at full health, you’ll put a shield on yourself thanks to Guarded by the Light.

Divine plea serves as a two-fold cooldown. It replenishes our mana, which is the same use it has for ret and holy paladins, but as prot, we have a bonus use thanks to Shield of the Templar: it’s a holy power cooldown. When fully spec’d into Templar, we get 3 holy power from activating Plea. What does this mean? If you need mana, then you should aim to use Plea when you have no holy power, giving you the maximum benefit of the HP gain – that saves you from having to generate it through CS/HotR/AS!

The most recent addition to our arsenal of cooldowns is the controversial Holy Shield. Patch 4.2 changed this from being a buff activated by CS and HotR (also WoG, if you specced into it) to being an activated CD. This article covers the topic expertly, but the quick and dirty explanation is to use this in the same way I mentioned above with Divine Protection. Although you CAN use it every 30sec, I’d argue the best method is to use it when you anticipate heavy physical damage coming up.

Last but certainly not least, we have Ardent Defender – aka, the “OH S#&%” button. This ability mirrors Divine Protection, but it’s added twist of saving you from a near-death experience means you should NOT treat it the same. The trick here is, once again, to anticipate how the fight works and to pop this ability when you know you’re about to die. Falling back to the example of Nef’s crackle, then you should use this ability if you know for a fact that Electrocute will kill you. Be sure to alert the healers that you used the ability (use a macro, call it out in Vent/Mumble, etc), so they know they don’t have to use their own CDs in an effort to keep alive through the crackle.

To sum it all up, tankadins have the cooldowns to survive nearly any bad situation, but we can’t use them effectively if we don’t know when to use them. Learn the fights by heart, know their ups and downs, and you’ll be an unstoppable force.

Wait, there’s more?

The other issue I see some paladins making (not just tanks, but holy and ret pallies as well) is the proper use of their seal. No one seal is a catch all, and like our cooldowns, having the right seal up is a matter of knowing each seal’s strengths and weaknesses. So, in the interest of helping my fellow pally tanks, here are the seals I use and when I use them:

  • Seal of Truth: The single target threat seal. Use this seal when you need sustained aggro on a single target. When this seal is glyphed, it’ll also add 10 expertise to your stats. This is one of the highest stat gains you’ll ever get from ANY seal, so unless you’re expertise capped and don’t need it (which I would argue you shouldn’t be, but that’s another topic altogether), then you should look into this glyph.
  • Seal of Righteousness: The multi-target threat seal. This seal works with any melee attack, which includes the physical component of HotR. Also, it works with seal of truth’s glyph as well, meaning it still grants the bonus 10 expertise.
  • Seal of Insight: The mana seal. This one is often overlooked or used incorrectly, so I want to clear the air here. If you’re starting to get low on mana, then the first thing you need to do is use judgment in a blank spot between HP-generating abilities, regardless of the rest of your rotation (never use it in place of CS/HotR though!). Next, you should use Divine Plea, both for the mana regen and the instant Holy Power. However! If you’re still low on mana after all of this, then swap seals to Insight (again, you’ll want to wait until you’re between HP-generating attacks like CS/HotR). Using judgment with this seal active restores MASSIVE amounts of mana, and you’ll be near full mana again in no time. Once you’re in an acceptable mana range, then return to either Truth/Righteousness as applicable.
  • Seal of Justice: I can’t think of any situations for dungeons/raids that you’ll want to use this seal as a tank. The few situations where you’re tanking only one add will usually be hindered by the add being slowed. Cho’gall’s Corrupting Adherent, for example, needs to get to the back of the room (or wherever your raid leads them) fairly quickly, so using Justice would be a bad idea.
As I said before, never switch seals in place of CS/HotR. Holy power is invaluable, so you’ll never want to lose a chance to get it! Otherwise, the key here is assessing the situation you’re in and picking an appropriate seal.
Good luck!
If you have any questions about anything I’ve written here or about something I failed to address, then please feel free to email me or leave a comment. I’ll answer as soon as I’m able!
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