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Mists of Pandaria: Guide to protection paladins

Posted Aug 9th 2012 1:00PM by Matt Walsh
Filed under: Paladin, (Paladin) The Light and How to Swing It

Mists of Pandaria Guide to protection paladins
Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Protection specialist Matt Walsh spends most of his time receiving concussions for the benefit of 9 other people, obsessing over his hair, and maintaining the tankadin-focused blog Righteous Defense.

As August begins, we are rapidly approaching the end of beta. Blizzard has indicated they are in the final stages of tuning for Mists of Pandaria, and with that comes the confidence to report on what we can reasonably expect our spec to look and perform like in the next expansion.

Mists will be a pretty monumental expansion for us. We have some massive playstyle changes coming, as well as the game-changing new talent systems. Active mitigation, as well, will require prot paladins to adjust to a new style of tanking.

This guide is intended to be a 101 introduction to the prot paladin as it stands in Mists of Pandaria. It'll cover everything from how to handle active mitigation and your rotation to how to spec, how to gem and enchant your gear, and everything in between. As we get closer to launch (and even after then), I'll continue to update it, so be sure to bookmark and check back in the future.

[Updated for beta build 15952, last changed on 8/8/12.]

Key Mists changes What is active mitigation?

Active mitigation, essentially, is using your normal abilities to enhance your defenses rather than just sitting there and passively avoiding or mitigating damage through stats. In Mists, the way this will work is that we'll use holy power on Shield of the Righteous, which will in turn give us 30% physical damage reduction (modified by mastery) for 3 seconds (a guaranteed non-block block) and, in addition, stack the Bastion of Glory effect. Bastion of Glory, in turn, will stack to five, with each stack increasing the amount of healing your Word of Glory does by 10% (again, modified by mastery).

The way you'll want to work with active mitigation, ideally, is to use Shield of the Righteousness as much as possible to keep Bastion of Glory nice and stacked -- and get the most out of those guaranteed "blocks"! -- and then sit on Word of Glory until you need the heal bomb. Basically, treat WoG as if it were a cooldown.

You probably do not want to just macro Shield of the Righteous (keep in mind, it's off the global cooldown now, so you can slip it in between abilities) to Crusader Strike, and forget about it. There will be times you might want to delay using ShoR for a second or two if a big, telegraphed physical hit is coming, and you want the guaranteed "block" to mitigate it for you.

How should I handle my holy power?

Do note that thanks to the new level 85 passive Boundless Conviction, you can have up to 5 holy power, though abilities still use a maximum of 3 holy power at a time.

For dealing with the resource, it is recommended to use the "banking" strategy. Build your holy power to 5 stacks, then spend it whenever you reach that 5th stack. Always keep 2 holy power up your sleeve for emergencies, so you can do things like quickly build up one more stack and fire off an emergency Word of Glory. It saves you the stress of needing to use holy power ASAP and having to build your stacks back up from zero.

What are my cooldowns?

Our cooldowns are just about the same as they were in Cataclysm. We have Guardian of Ancient Kings for periods of major hurt, Ardent Defender if we expect to die within the next few seconds, Lay on Hands when we need a major heal bomb, or Divine Protection for more run-of-the-mill damage. Do note that DP was changed to be 40% magic damage reduction at base, or 20/20 magical/physical damage reduction when glyphed. Moreover, taunting and using Divine Shield (and then canceling it when the fixate effect of the taunt wears off) is still a viable jury-rigged cooldown.

We no longer have Divine Guardian as a raid cooldown; however, it has been replaced with Devotion Aura, which is essentially the same spell with the now deprecated Concentration Aura tacked on.

Depending on your level 75 talent choice, you may gain an additional cooldown. Both Holy Avenger and Sanctified Wrath have cooldown implications, with the former being a button you hit and the latter turning Avenging Wrath into a survivability ability.

The level 60 talent Unbreakable Spirit reduces the cooldown on Divine Protection and Lay on Hands as you spend holy power. Sims are showing it to, on average, reduce the cooldown of DP to 40 seconds and the cooldown of LoH to 5 minutes. Divine Shield is affected as well, for what it's worth.

Which seal(s) should I use?

Seal of Truth is our default single-target seal. Seal of Righteousness is our AoE seal and is worth more damage/threat at the threshold of three or more targets. Seal of Insight can be useful for progression situations if you aren't having any threat issues (worth 5% more healing on WoG/other self-heals and returns health on attack).

Which aura should I use?

None! They're all gone! Auras were removed from the game. Seals now occupy your auras bar. Their spirit carries on in abilities like Heart of the Crusader and Devotion Aura, however.

What blessing should I use?

Blessing of Might gives mastery, while Blessing of Kings gives some parry through strength. If I had to choose between the two, I'd go with Might for the interaction with active mitigation, but Kings will offer a non-negligible amount of TDR.

What's my threat rotation?

For single targets, we're now looking at a CS-X-X heartbeat, rather than the Cataclysm CS-X heartbeat. As a result, your rotation will be Crusader Strike followed by two fillers chosen among Judgment, Avenger's Shield (and Grand Crusader procs), Consecration, Holy Wrath, Hammer of the Righteous (for Weakened Blows), the level 90 talent, and Sacred Shield (if talented).

The priority for single targets (emphasizing survivability) is Weakened Blows > Sacred Shield > ShoR > CS > J > AS > L90 > Cons > HW. If you're emphasizing DPS, just drop WB and SS.

For AoE, the rotation is essentially the same: HotR > AS > J > Holy Prism or Light's Hammer > Cons > HW with SS sprinkled in as needed. Avenger's Shield loses its potency the more targets you have over three. While Judgment only hits one target, we'll still need the holy power for ShoR.

We do not have Inquisition anymore, so holy power can be spent on ShoRs. Make sure to use Seal of Righteousness.

I should also mention that Vengeance was redesigned for Mists, with a faster ramp-up time and no cap on how much AP you can gain from it (as of the most current beta build). This will have far-ranging consequences (that is, everything will likely be affected) for our rotation, so expect some revisions to the above once more simming is done.

Mists of Pandaria Guide to protection paladins
How should I spec?

Well, this is a much more interesting question in Mists, thanks to the talent overhaul. Rather than telling you a definitive cookie-cutter spec, it's more prudent to go tier by tier. There are some must-have talents in here, but there's also a lot of wiggle room for personal preference.

Tier 1: Speed increases Tier 2: Crowd control Tier 3: Heals Tier 4: Utility Tier 5: Holy power Tier 6: New attacks Personally, I suspect my default spec will be 123213 for progression content and 323233 for farm/dungeon content, with variances depending on certain situations, of course.

How should I glyph?

Well, glyphing is now more complicated in some ways and much easier in others. Primes are gone, and with it the cookie-cutter, mathed-out must-haves. In their place, we have even more situational majors, as well as (shock!) some actually not completely useless minors. There's a crazy amount of choice going on.

Major
My default load-out, I think, will be Avenging Wrath, Hammer of the Righteous, and Alabaster Shield. I expect a lot of glyph swapping from fight to fight, depending on what is going on in that encounter.

Minor glyphs

Continuing in the tradition from Wrath of the Lich King, it doesn't matter which minors you choose, ultimately. You can opt for many different kinds of cosmetic toys, such as the ability to Tebow or to have your Judgment crits calls down some holy fire on a target. The only one that feels mandatory (to use that word exceedingly lightly) is Glyph of Righteous Retreat, which allows us to baseline bubble hearth again.

On a serious note, keep in mind that Glyph of Focused Wrath isn't worth it, mathematically. Even on one target, Consecration still does more damage than Holy Wrath, not to mention Holy Wrath won't hit targets that don't exist -- so why bother with the glyph?

Nonetheless, I'll probably choose Fire From the Heavens, Righteous Retreat, and Luminous Charger.

How should I enchant my gear?

Head Cloak Shoulders Chest Waist Wrist Hands Legs Feet Weapon Shield
How should I gem my gear?

Gemming is very straightforward: pure stamina (Solid River's Heart) for blue, mastery/stam (Puissant Wild Jade) for yellow, and either stamina/parry (Defender's Imperial Amethyst) or stamina/expertise (Guardian's Imperial Amethyst) for red, depending on personal taste.

As for the meta, the Austere Primal Diamond is likely the best choice, all around. Effulgent Primal Diamond has its uses for certain fights. Eternal Primal Diamond is not worth it; avoidance is just not worth that kind of survivability, and our block chance won't be high enough to make the block value worthwhile. Fleet Primal Diamond is interesting, but it can't compete with stamina.

Jewelcrafters want to use the stamina version of their exclusive gems, Solid Serpent's Eyes, in blue or prismatic sockets.

Mists of Pandaria Guide to protection paladins
How should I reforge my gear?

Probably the easiest way to reforge in Mists will be to cap hit and expertise (7.5% for both), reforging out of avoidance. Once those two stats are capped, continue to reforge out of avoidance for mastery.

How much hit/expertise do we need?

As I wrote in the last paragraph, we need much more hit/expertise than we did in Cataclysm. Both stats are actually important now, and sims have shown them to be slightly less important than avoidance stats with regards to Total Damage Reduction (TDR).

To cap melee hit, you need 7.5% hit chance, or 2,550 rating (2,210 for draenei). To cap spell hit, you just need to soft cap expertise (more on that in a second), which double dips with spell hit and will provide the 7.5% we need. Most of our abilities are melee attacks, though Avenger's Shield, Consecration, Holy Wrath, and our level 90 talent are spells.

As for expertise, to soft cap (removing dodge chance from the target) requires 7.5% expertise chance, or 2,550 expertise rating (2,210, depending on racial weapon specializations). Hard cap requires 15% expertise chance (to remove block and parry from the target) which is 5,100 expertise rating (4,760, depending on racial weapon specializations). I do not recommend attempting to hard cap intentionally.

Likewise, I do not recommend attempting to force more hit/expertise than you have on your gear. You can get more survivability from stamina, mastery, and avoidance.

What consumables should I use?

Flasks
Elixirs

We have a few options for guardian elixirs: As for battle, we have: Potions Food

Cooking has been expanded in Mists, and there's actually a lot going on now. I won't inundate you with the specifics, but our best food in terms of survivability stats will be the Chun Tian Spring Rolls, with 450 stamina. All food is a single stat now; there is no long X stat/stamina food.

I recommend reading over this guide to Mists cooking.

The Light and How to Swing It shows paladin tanks how to take on the dark times brought by Cataclysm. Try out our four tips for upping your combat table coverage, find out how to increase threat without sacrificing survivability, and learn how to manage the latest version of Holy Shield.

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