I've been heavily invested in the DPS role: my main character is a warlock who I've played for 5 years. But I wanted to start exploring the other two roles: tanking and healing.

I have a paladin alt that I wanted to start to use for tanking for some time: I've leveled it to 78, but 90% of that was solo, and the other 10% was basic healing. So I don't know where to start, especially post-Cataclysm. I've tossed around learning-by-doing using the Dungeon Finder, but the tank role is particularly crucial and getting chewed out over and over while I'm learning on the job doesn't sound particularly fun.

I understand the numbers: what stats are important, what to talent, what to glyph: my question is really about the actual gameplay.

How do I pick targets? What rotations or spell priorities should I use? What should I be looking out for? Are there any up-to-date tutorials that assume no knowledge?

  • 4
    Two random tips from someone who has never played a pally, but has seen good tanks and bad --- Throw your avenging shield into the face of the first mob while you are pulling, and drop a consecrate on the ground once things are running to you to help maintain "AOE" threat. I'm not really sure what the current tanking rotation should be for single target/multi-target threat though. Also - for any tank, take a look at the tankspot forums - there is a good amount of information there about general tanking - mob priorities, camera control, addons, etc
    – gnarf
    Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 21:20
  • I'm sad you're already 78, because my best advice would be to learn to tank by starting with lower level dungeons, where mistakes are more forgiving. Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 21:25
  • @WillfulWizard my plan B is to start a second paladin and dungeon crawl instead of questing until I feel comfortable enough to switch back. I was hoping to see if there's a way to avoid that first, though.
    – user3389
    Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 21:31
  • @gnarf -- this should be an answer.
    – BeemerGuy
    Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 22:39
  • 2
    I don't feel qualified enough for it to be an answer
    – gnarf
    Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 22:43

3 Answers 3


My first suggestion would be to try to level some as your protadin in prot spec. See how it feels WITHOUT the other players joining in, then run an instance you already know as tank. (And gather gear first; while you don't need Defense Rating in 4.0, you don't want to be a squishy tank.)

  • Avengers Shield to pull (or exorcism and then it, if you so desire; I could never be bothered)
  • If you have full Holy Power, do a shield of the righteous or the self-heal, depending on your needs.
  • Hammer of the Righteous (for AOE) or Crusader's Strike (single target); you'll end up using this skill pretty much every other time. This also applies a debuff to your actual target, so try to tab-around with it to make sure more than one mob gets hit.
  • Judgement on cooldown. It restores your mana and, if traited properly, gives you a chance for a guaranteed crit from Shield. This also does a debuff, so again, try to hit different targets with it when applicable.
  • Holy Wrath; note that it stuns certain types of creatures so don't do it unless you have them in place.
  • Consecration: I mostly use only in crazypulls or if everything else is on cooldown and I have full mana. It's just not great any more.

My opening AOE rotation tends to be Avenger's Shield -> Hammer -> Judgement -> Hammer -> Holy Wrath -> Hammer -> Shield; I'll thrown in another Avenger's Shield if it procs again.

Some more generic tanking things:
- Your first goal is to survive. Your second goal is to keep attention off the healer(s). Your third goal is to do a lot of threat.
- A DPS meter may help; if one of the DPS is doing three times the DPS as anyone else, then that guy will pull threat from you. If he does it on a trash pull, it's his own fault so let him have them. (Ironically, I find it's the guy doing the LEAST DPS who is the most likely to pull threat).
- Keep moving, as much as possible. You don't have to worry about Rage or Runic Power depleting, and you DO have to keep an eye on your healer's mana bar; but you also tend to get better DPS if they know you're not pausing randomly.
- For the first few instances, if you're PUGging, tell the PUG that this is your first time tanking the instance. "Oh, he's new" is a much better attitude than "what a newb", and it lets the healer know how much attention he has to give.
- Use your tanking cooldowns and interrupts as necessary. DBM will help with that. - Learn who to prioritize and call targets when necessary. I have skull bound to X, so I can easily tell the group who to focus on when necessary. They generally don't listen, but that's not my fault, at least.
- It's better to hit a wandering mob with your Avenger's Shield as they get too close than to let the healer get their attention first. Being aware of everything going on around you is helpful. As healer or tank, I like to arrange it so that the tank is between potential adds and the healer, so if heals DOES get aggro, they run right through the tanks AOEs on their way.
- I mentioned it before, but keep an eye on your healer. If he's out of mana or drinking or otherwise not there, then don't pull.
- You can cleanse yourself to remove debuffs. Do so when applicable; your first goal is still to survive.

  • Thanks for the advice. I actually leveled my current paladin as protection solo, and I don't think it's helped me partially because Blizzard redesigned paladins at least twice since starting it, but mostly because threat isn't an issue solo. The only person I'm concerned about not dying is myself, and that's incredibly easy to avoid as any class or spec. Leveling a second paladin under the new system but grouping the whole way is something I'm toying with, though. Your other advice does help, though.
    – user3389
    Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 15:45
  • You might also consider leveling a druid or a warrior via randoms; that way you can learn tanking, if not specifically Pally Tanking. (Since you already know the pally skills.)
    – Trevel
    Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 15:49

I never raided with my pally tank, but I did tank the heroics hundreds of times in WoTLK. I tanked enough that I was able to get the red protodrake from the achievement (can't remember the name of it off the top of my head), so I know more than the average person on tanking, but I wouldn't go so far as to claim that I know as much as any hardcore raider who tanks for a living.

I started in the same manner that you did: I rolled a newb pally and didn't start tanking until I hit 70. At that point, I actually returned to some of the dungeons in TBC and solo'd them so that I could get familiar with tanking. After doing a few normal runs I then switched over to some of the easy heroics and gave them a try. I then moved on to tanking normal instances in WoTLK, and from there to heroics.

Don't stress over having waited until 78 to begin tanking. I've known tanks that were horrible at it from day one, and I've known tanks who picked it up late in the game and were excellent at it! The same goes for any class. It all comes down to your aptitude as a player.

Lastly, I'm not 100% sure what the rotation is right now, because I've been too busy playing my shaman and mage in Cataclysm, but I know for certain that the rotation had changed significantly towards the end of WoTLK. For instance, consecration was the last in the rotation because A) it had been nerfed to the point that it generated the least amount of thread per second, and B) it was overly mana intensive, and C) the CD was lengthened significantly (30 seconds?). Your primary threat generator should be hammer of the righteous and you should be hitting it every time that it is off CD. However, take note that HotR is best for when you're tanking multiple mobs. If you are single target tanking then you should be using crusader strike. Avenger's shield isn't as high in the rotation anymore, but it should still be used when everything else is on CD. Oh, and don't forget about holy wrath.

Really though, google "pally tank rotation 4.0.1" and you'll get some good hits. Tankspot has some good rotations on it too. GL :)

  • Thanks: your advice is encouraging. I think I'm going to try the solo-BC-instances to test out some basic tanking rotations. The rest of your advice mimics what I've found so far.
    – user3389
    Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 6:26

Pally tanking isn't too bad, but it is different from every other tank class: Pallies are the only class where your threat generating capability drops as the fight progresses. Warriors and Bears both deal in Rage, rage generation is only a problem early in the fight. Likewise DK's with Rune Power. But Pallies generate threat via mana, and mana generation can definitely slow you down, especially if you're doing consecrate to generate AoE threat.

The best nuts and bolts numbers are at Elitist Jerks. Their protadin thread is so complete I'm not going to try and complete.

You have two taunts: hand of reckoning, which is a traditional single target taunt, and righteous defense, which is different in that you cast it on a FRIENDLY that has drawn aggro, to pull off the mobs. This will take some practice because most group taunts are AoE.

Watch out for mobs who have heavy magic resist spell damage reduction, or mobs that throw mana burn around. Since your aggro depends on mana, you can find yourself unable to generate threat.

Damage mitigation is where pallies shine. They are extremely hard to kill under normal circumstances. You don't really need to worry much here. Remember, if you bubble, you lose aggro in the worst way.

This brings us to the last point: DO NOT LOSE AGGRO. Warriors and Bears can pop an AoE taunt and be fine. They can also charge, to re-engage mobs that run off. Pallies weird targeted taunt is not nearly as cool, and when you lose aggro, and mobs start ping-ponging, you can very easily target the wrong friendly, and waste your only multi-mob taunt. The benefit of mana-based threat is that you can go nuts early, and hopefully build a good lead on your DPS happy partymates.

Avengers Shield and Exorcism are your long-range threat builders. Avengers shield is a pretty good tank tool: long range capt america style shield toss that hits 1-3 mobs. Good for a 3 pull, terrible if you only want two out of five or so. Exorcism you should know well from Retadin.

  • Magic resist shouldn't be a problem, because paladins exclusively deal in holy damage, which is never resisted. (Nor are there any spells that provide holy resistance) Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 0:53
  • I appreciate the advice, but there are some issues: 1) mana isn't a paladin's only resource, and its main threat-generating abilities are now Crusader Strike and Hammer of the Righteous (neither of which use mana) and Shield of the Righteous, which uses Holy Power; 2) Elitist Jerks focuses on high-end raiding, and the thread you linked is over a year old (mostly irrelevant post-Cataclysm); 3) magic resist is irrelevant as @Raven mentioned; 4) Avenger's shield can be glyphed to only affect one target, 5) Exorcism for tanking was largely thought experiment that got rejected before 4.0 came out.
    – user3389
    Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 6:29
  • 'Magic Resist' is a poor choice of words, but mobs with significant spell damage reduction or spell reflect or other similar 'anti-caster' abilities can cause more trouble for Paladin tanks than others. Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 16:24

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