Assumedly -- hopefully -- we're a week away from the release of patch 4.1, and with it all the various tweaks to our beloved tanking spec. Some are buffs, some are nerfs (including one fat nerf to Word of Glory), and the others are changes of various import that'll have some subtle but important effects on our tanking.
The troll hunt will be on, but before you queue for that first Zul'Gurub or Zul'Aman 5-man, you'll want to get your house in order. I'll give you the ins and outs of 4.1, what it means for us in terms of every little affected facet, and how to cope with the hardballs that Blizzard tosses at us, so you can hit the ground running with hardly a stumble.
The big one: Word of Glory now has a cooldown
This isn't doom and gloom like some are predicting. A setback, sure, but it's not going to cripple us. For starters, a cooldown of 20 seconds theoretically only removes every other Word of Glory from the table (assuming you're only spending holy power on Word of Glory), with it currently taking 9 seconds to generate a full stack of holy power (assuming no Crusader Strike/Hammer of the Righteous misses, which let's face it, is a tall order).
If anything, this'll force us to be more judicious with our choices of when to pop Word of Glory. We don't have the luxury of flooding the zone with free heals, so we'll have to be a wee bit more pragmatic. Rather than WoGing on cooldown, it's going to be a better idea to sit on the button and use it when you've taken a major hit (or are about to take a major hit, thanks to Guarded by the Light's absorb-overheal effect) and smooth over that brief moment of panic for your healers.
It'd make much less sense to WoG when it comes off cooldown during a moment of respite than when you're about to take a frost breath to the face 5 seconds later. Basically, WoG is moving from a model of free and frequent healing to more of a cooldown. Adjust mentalities appropriately, my friends.
Moreover, this change also has repercussions for our talent choices. Guarded by the Light, I feel, is still a valid choice for your talent points, but Eternal Glory most likely will not be. With our being incapable of using Word of Glory back to back, the talent loses its survivability raison d'etre and morphs primarily into a threat talent.
And how does it stack up in that regard? Well, poorly. According to some preliminary Theckmath, EG is only 14 DPS per point in a 939 rotation with full Vengeance and that "nirvana" of no hit/low expertise. Contrarily, Seals of the Pure (EG's neighbor) is worth 130 DPS per point under the same conditions.
Drop EG as soon as 4.1 hits. It belongs to holy paladins now, primarily.
More holy power, but not much more
Now that I've gotten the bad news out of the way, let's talk about the good news. First and foremost, the Grand Crusader proc now generates holy power when Avenger's Shield is cast while the proc is active. This is a great change that will ideally give us a little more holy power to alleviate the low hit/expertise-induced drought we've been toiling under lately.
However, we're still talking about a rotation -- 939 -- in which the only spots that are really free to swap different abilities in are the 9s. The 3s are all booked up with Crusader Strike like it's wedding season at Niagara Falls. So every other GCD is going to be Crusader Strike, and every GCD at the 3 holy power mark is going to be a holy power-fueled ability. That leaves you with a tiny, tiny window in which this change can shake up the rotation.
So, when would you use Avenger's Shield? When that proc lights up? No. Crusader Strike still takes priority over Avenger's Shield. Only use AS in the 9 slots, prioritized before Judgement.
Basically, the new priority system for 4.1 seems to be: ShoR > CS > AS > J
There's a whole discussion here about how what should be a big change is pretty insignificant because our rotation is about as stiff as day-old corpse. But that's a topic for another day.
More Sacred Duty procs
Avenger's Shield now can generate Sacred Duty procs. This is a wonderful change, which should lead to a good number more Shield of the Righteous crits per fight. Remember, the biggest gun in our arsenal is a ShoR swollen with a fat Sacred Duty proc. Anything we can do to up that will invariably give us more single-target threat.
Raidwall takes a hit
Raidwall's hit not just in terms of uptime but in terms of prestige, as well. Those uncivilized meatshields, the warriors, are getting a Divine Guardian of their own in Rallying Cry. In line with the increase in available raid cooldowns and the sublime overpoweredness of Divine Guardian, the cooldown on DG has been increased to 3 minutes. This'll overall give your allies more frequently available raid cooldowns, even while we'll be weeping in the corner at the reduced efficacy of our precious raidwall.
Still, keep in mind that Divine Guardian continues to be the superior cooldown. Damage not taken is always, always better than damage taken, even if you have a layer of temporary hit points to cover for it.
Less downtime post-death
Righteous Fury will persist through death now (though I swear I've heard that line before). I welcome this, because there is nothing more infuriating than being battle rezzed in the middle of a fight -- never mind the indignity of requiring the rez in the first place -- and needing two GCDs to get RF back up, then your seal, and then you can get back to tanking.
It was worse in the past when Blessing of Sanctuary was third on that list, but still, the sooner we can get to a point where the first button we hit coming out of death's gate is taunt, the better.
The secret threat nerf
Judgement of the Just will no longer proc talents and other effects. This may seem innocuous to the layman, but in actuality, it's a tiny damage nerf. For the longest time, we've been relying on JoJ, sub rosa, to give us additional seal damage among other effects (basically, whenever the slowing effect hit or refreshed it would trigger our seals). With this long overdue bug fix, we'll be losing that free threat. All good things, etc., etc.
Block rating is finally dead
Lastly, a tiny buff via a profession change: The last vestige of block rating in the game is being swept away with the change of Enchant Shield - Blocking to Enchant Shield - Mastery. While we're losing an old friend, it's a small comfort to know we're gaining some free block chance out of the deal. The old enchant was worth .45% block chance; the new one is worth .63%.
I don't know if .18% block chance is enough to salve the wound of having block rating taken away ... but I suppose it will do.
Don't forget to send flowers to the Widow Blockrating.
The Light and How to Swing It tries to help paladins cope with the dark times brought by Cataclysm. Check out our protection 101 guide and our suggestions for protection paladin addons.