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The Light and How to Swing It: The low level tank part 1


With the Light as his strength, Gregg Reece of The Light and How to Swing It faces down the demons of the Burning Legion, the undead of the Scourge, and helps with the puppet shows at the Argent Ren Faire up in Icecrown. For the next couple weeks we'll be taking a look at low level dungeon runners.

Cross-realm instancing is coming in patch 3.3 and along with it will be the ability for low level characters to finally find those level appropriate groups for old world dungeons. Being that those parties will need tanks, we thought we'd take a look at what an up and coming paladin needs to know about dungeons as well as what types of gear and stats to be on the lookout for. We're going to start with tanking and then move on to healing and damage-dealing in the weeks to come.

A tank's job is to be the only person the monsters are attacking. That is the absolute basic definition of the role. While there are all sorts of nuances, tricks, and tactics that are learned for high end raids, the basics are still needed and should be something to concentrate on.

Threat:
As I said, being a tank means that you want stuff to hit you and not those wonderful healers in their long flowing robes. This is because chainmail and plate stands up a lot better to being hit than cloth robes. In order to keep the attention of whatever creatures you happen to be fighting you need to be numero uno on the target's threat list. For those of you new to the game, you're probably asking, "What is threat?"

Every time you cast a spell, hit the monster, or heal someone, you're generating threat. For a tank, the best way of generating threat is just to keep hitting it as much as you can. The skill Righteous Fury helps boost the amount of threat you end up generating from holy spells and since all of our spells are holy, it generally buffs up the threat on every button you hit. Please note that if you're playing healer or damage-dealer in a dungeon you generally should not have Righteous Fury up as this will cause way too much threat.

While the default WoW user interface does give threat messages now, the defacto addon for tracking your threat is Omen which you can get at WoWinterface or Curse. This lets you keep track of how ticked off a monster is at everyone in your group. You'll notice using Omen that top threat doesn't automatically just jump to the person at the top of the list. People in melee distance will grab the attention of the the monster at 110% of the current tank's threat and those at ranged distance will grab aggro at 130%.

Getting the attention back after someone else pulls aggro can be hard sometimes. If you're leveling, you might not have the ideal gear on and the other person might be armed for bear and can easily pull aggro if they're not paying attention. This is where taunts come into play. Taunts are used to brute-force your way back up to the top of the list and be the one tanking again. They have no real use if you've already got their whole attention, so they shouldn't ever be a part of your regular skill rotation. The two taunts we have at our disposal are Righteous Defense at level 14 and Hand of Reckoning at level 16. We'll get into the details of those two next week.

Avoidance and Mitigation:
Okay, you've got the basics of how to make sure things hit you. Now we're going to talk about surviving those hits through avoidance and mitigation.

Avoidance is just like it sounds. You just flat avoid taking damage. This is done via dodging, parrying, and the monster just flat failing to hit you. The things that increase this are talents like Deflection and Anticipation as well as stats like defense rating, parry rating, and dodge rating.

Mitigation is just reducing damage you are taking and primarily refers to physical damage. It's also something paladins are fairly good at. Armor is the primary way all tanks add mitigation. The more armor you have, the less physical damage you take. If you want an extra boost of armor just turn on Devotion Aura (that first aura we paladins start out with). One of the best items to help you increase your armor is going to be your shield as most of its itemization is devoted to armor. Speaking of which...

Warriors and paladins have another way to boost mitigation. Thanks to the way the developers designed us, we love our shields. Shields are the bestestest things ever, because they let us block. Blocking is sort of like dodge or parry, but you still end up taking some damage, just not all of it. Block is going to get redesigned in Cataclysm to be a percentage of the incoming damage, but right now it's a number based on a couple different stats. If you want to increase how often you block something then you want to look for block rating. To boost the amount of damage you stop with a single block, just make sure you increase your strength and block value.

Yes, block rating and block value get kind of confusing. That's why they're removing block value and making it a percentage based on talents and other stats in Cataclysm. Anyways, if you're tanking without a shield, you had better be a death knight or a druid or you'll end up being toast.

Stats:
Because this is a basic guide for the leveling paladin, we're not going to get into theorycrafting, defense cap, and boss hit table discussions. There are only a few things you want to look for to decide if it's tanking gear.

The first is armor type. A paladin tank is going to be wearing the best type of armor available to him or her. This means that as a tank, you'll never be wearing cloth or leather unless you have no better options. Before level 40, you'll be wearing mail and carrying a shield in one hand and a sword, axe, or mace in the other. After level 40, you'll be wearing plate and carrying a shield in one hand and a sword, axe, or mace in the other. There are a couple reasons for this. The first of which is that this will mean you'll have better armor which will help on that whole mitigation thing we discussed earlier. The second is that tanking stats won't generally appear on cloth or leather. There is some mail past level 40 that has tanking stats on it, but that was from back when a shaman tank was still a viable option and most leather with tanking stats is designed for tanking druids as they can't wear plate.

The second thing to look for is strength and stamina with the emphasis on stamina. Those are going to be the two main stats on just about every piece of armor you will want to pickup. Stamina gives you health and strength makes your blocks stop more as well as let you hit harder so your threat will be better. If you go to the auction house and just do a search for "of the bear" or "of the champion" these will primarily be the things you're looking for and aren't bad for random greens if you need to fill an armor slot with something. As a protection paladin, you don't have a lot of use for intellect or spirit. Yes, we are a class that uses mana, but as you level up, you'll start getting talents to help you start to ignore your mana bar (not completely, but it will become less of a factor). Agility can be a useful stat at certain points as it gives us a little bit of attack power for threat as well as some extra dodge, but isn't really something you'll be looking for on gear. Agility is more of an enchant or gem option when you do use it.

The third thing to look for are those primary tanking stats of defense, dodge, parry, and block rating. If it has any of those stats, it was designed some tank somewhere to use. Defense rating is on just about every piece of tank gear past a certain level. Once you get up to level 80, you'll have to start worrying more about the balancing act known as the defense cap, but as a leveling paladin you won't need to worry too much about it. Also, due to how the four different tanking classes work, you'll end up seeing a lot more stuff with dodge on it than parry. This is because dodge is the only avoidance stat that is shared by all four classes. Gear with hit and expertise is also important, but for hitting dungeons while leveling, you shouldn't have too much trouble if you're lacking in those.

So, when looking at a new piece of gear be sure to check out:
  1. Is this the best gear type I can wear? Mail before level 40 and plate after level 40.
  2. Does this have strength and stamina on it? Stamina for health and strength for threat and better blocks.
  3. Does it have defense, dodge, parry, or block? Because those stats are only handy for tanks.
Tune in next week when we take a look at those tanking talents and skills every growing tankadin needs.


The Light and How to Swing It tries to help Paladins cope with the dark times coming in Cataclysm. See the upcoming Paladin changes the expansion will bring. With Wrath beginning to come to a close and soon the final showdown with the Lich King will be here. Are you ready for the assault on Icecrown Citadel?

Filed under: Paladin, Analysis / Opinion, Leveling, (Paladin) The Light and How to Swing It

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