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The Light and How to Swing It: 4 ways to improve your threat without sacrificing survivability

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 24 other people, obsessing over his hair (a blood elf racial!), and maintaining the tankadin-focused blog Righteous Defense.

Last week, we talked about to improve your combat table coverage through four easy tips. This week, I'm going to swing the pendulum to the other direction, away from survivability and toward the Candyland that is threat. Truthfully, in this age of Vengeance, there sometimes doesn't seem to be a particular need to work on augmenting one's threat, but corner cases exist where your personal damage output can be crucial to the success of an encounter.

When it comes to boosting threat, the usual advice is often to gem differently or wear some hit or expertise trinkets. The downside to that, of course, is that you're trading survivability for an increase in damage output. While that might be kosher for heroics or farm content, when the bosses are still dangerous, you want to play it safe. As I'll be detailing in today's column, it's very possible to bring the pain without shooting yourself in the foot.

Push moar buttonz

I get emails sometimes from other tankadins asking how to improve their threat. I'll ask for their armory and a recent parse (if possible), just to check out the kinds of things I've mentioned in this column -- do they have the right talents and glyphs, what's their opening look like, etc. I also check how often they attack, how much holy power they generate over the course of a fight, and (essentially) how many empty GCDs they let slip between their fingers.

Invariably, one of the most common things I recommend is for them to push more buttons. A GCD is a very precious thing, and we are entrusted with a very sacred duty when every 1.5-second slot has a spell available to fill it. If you hesitate on your choices or take a breather in your rotation, you're setting yourself back in threat measurably. (Obviously, using a GCD for a utility spell, for example, is very forgiveable. Don't worry about that.)

When reading Theck's MATLAB thread (the bible of tankadin threat analytics), you'll notice he mentions the importance of not fishing for Sacred Duty procs and not holding back on Shield of the Righteous or using it too early. The reason for this is that the foundation of our single-target threat rotates around accumulating holy power as fast as possible and expending it at its zenith.

Hit buttons often -- the right buttons at the right time. When Crusader Strike is done, start hitting the Avenger's Shield keybind -- and if you don't keybind, consider that a meta-suggestion (Do it!) and discover how it increases your reaction times like crazy -- so that AS flies off as soon as it's off cooldown. Then start doing the same with Crusader Strike again. The goal is for your GCDs to actually be around 1.5 seconds long. Just think of how much threat you can gain if you can feasibly double the number of attacks you perform per encounter!

When it comes to my subsequent suggestions, they're all small potatoes if you're not hitting enough buttons!

Talent and glyph correctly

While "push more buttons" may be the most important (yet esoteric) change you can make, the most obvious one is to be absolutely positive you're entering the field of battle with the most optimized loadout of talents and glyphs. Making the wrong choice with your talents and glyphs can account for a loss of hundreds of DPS, which will absolutely be noticeable at the business end of your threat generation.

For example, when the Word of Glory nerf was first debuted on the PTR, there was a general confusion over how the change would affect the talent Eternal Glory. The reasoning was, it was a free Shield of the Righteous right after a WoG -- surely that'd be powerful? It sounded like it would be. And yet once the change made it live, it became clear soon after that the value of the talent was essentially torn to pieces, like some unwanted Steve Buscemi character in a woodchipper.

Instead, Seals of the Pure, which was generally overlooked, became the best choice for the first-tier prot threat talent.

Without cribbing Theck's work too much, I want to briefly go down the list of his findings of which talent choices are optimal in a low-hit, low-expertise setting (which is par for the course for a threat rotation/situation in most raids).

According to Theck, for fights in which you're around 2% hit and 10 expertise and running the 939 rotation/priority system (more on that in a second), your best bets for threat talents, in descending order, are:
  1. Wrath of the Lightbringer
  2. Sacred Duty
  3. Reckoning
  4. Grand Crusader
  5. Crusade
  6. Rule of Law
  7. Seals of the Pure
  8. Arbiter of the Light
  9. Hallowed Ground
  10. Judgements of the Pure
Because talent points are limited, you'll find yourself traveling down the list to Seals of the Pure (and no farther) and still claiming all the important survivability talents.

As for glyphs, when it comes to primes, the top three threat glyphs are Glyph of Seal of Truth, Glyph of Shield of the Righteous, and Glyph of Hammer of the Righteous. (Though likely you'll be swapping out the HotR glyph for the Glyph of Word of Glory for boss fights.) The Glyph of Crusader Strike and the Glyph of Judgement are both weaker options compared to the two frontrunners, so unless you're skimping on the WoG glyph, do avoid the allure.

When it comes to major glyphs, the choices are much less critical than the primes. Still, for a boost to your single-target threat, you can't go wrong with the Glyph of Focused Shield (assuming you're not on adds or something). It provides a sizeable damage buff to your shield toss.

So, the lesson here is don't grab what talents sound the best. Do your homework, read the MATLAB thread, and make informed decisions based on the available data.

Open the fight with a bang

Sure, you can enter the fray with a glorious, soaring shield toss -- that's all well and good. However, if you want to really pad Omen at the start, you can employ a few more maneuvers into your opening volley.

To start, fire up Divine Plea and load the chamber with 3 holy power. Then hit Inquisition and hardcast an Exorcism to aggro the boss. Obviously, if the boss is already aggroed, don't stand there channeling the Exorcism cast. The beauty in using Exo lies in the ability to basically get in a free hit without worrying about completely neutering your avoidance during a cast.

Once the boss is angry and stomping in your direction, quickly pop wings and let fly Avenger's Shield and Judgement as it moves to close the gap. Once you two meet, you should have a sizeable chunk of threat on the board, and you can get to work immediately with the normal rotation.

You might also consider pre-potting with a Golemblood Potion for some extra damage output. The strength boost is sizeable, and it provides a decent chunk of avoidance via the parry conversion.

Use the correction priority in your rotation

As the battle is joined, you then need to be vigilant in maintaining the correct priority system in your rotation. The key to maximizing your threat output is to hit the best button at the best time.

Generally, the default rotation is Shield of the Righteous > Crusader Strike > Avenger's Shield > Hammer of Wrath > Judgement > Consecration > Holy Wrath. This is what is affectionately known as the 939 rotation, mostly as an homage to the workhorse 969 rotation of the Wrath era and as a poke in the eye to Blizzard when Crusader Strike was first changed to a 3-second cooldown, giving us an even more rigid rotation than we enjoyed in the previous expansion.

Thankfully, subsequent patches have made changes that loosened up the rotation and allowed it to blossom into something nearly resembling a priority system. You'll still be generating holy power every other global cooldown, primarily via Crusader Strike (the 3 in 939).

Still, in between those (the 9 slot), you'll be prioritizing Shield of the Righteous when at 3 holy power, or Avenger's Shield if it has procced or is just off cooldown, or Judgement when ShoR or AS are unavailable. Then, if you need a button to push (and have the mana to spend), fill in the void with Consecration or Holy Wrath. Lastly, if the boss is under 20%, you can use Hammer of Wrath ahead of Judgement.

It's key to have discipline when you're working through the rotation. If you use Consecration instead of an available Avenger's Shield, for example, you're doing significantly less threat and gimping your mana, to boot. While one wrong choice may seem innocuous, bad choices have a habit of piling up over time and slowly allowing other DPSers to catch up, to the point that you'll have to call for Salv on some trigger-happy glass cannon.

This could not be more true than in the first 30 seconds of the fight, when threat truly matters and you set the pace for the rest of the encounter. It's so very critical to blast ahead of the DPS -- and stay there -- and flubbing the first few go-arounds of the rotation will come back to haunt you.

Maximizing your GCD expenditure, setting yourself up with the correct loadout in advance, immediately unleashing a holy tidal wave of threat at the start of the fight, practicing discipline with your rotation -- these are the hallmarks of a powerful threat performance. Don't gimp yourself on any of these key points. Utilize them all, and turn yourself into a juggernaut of Omen that makes mages weep at the sight of your threat ceiling and warriors tear at their hair as they fail to get one-shot in the opening 10 seconds of the fight.

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.

Filed under: Paladin, (Paladin) The Light and How to Swing It

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