I still remember how great the news was when, in the run-up to Wrath of the Lich King, we were told that some of our Blessing spells were going to be converted to a whole new tier of temporary buffs that could be used situationally. This was something that the paladin community had been clamoring for for a very long time. There were just so many Blessings, and it didn't make sense for all the various offerings to be in the same tier.
Then, over time, our hard-fought victory was forgotten, as well as the whole idea of proactively lending a Hand -- sorry, there are going to be a lot of hand puns -- to your groupmates or fellow raiders. Where it used to be a common facet of paladin-ing (in any flavor) to use your then-Blessings as actively as possible, in the last few years, it's more become a characteristic of the min-maxers and the obsessive.
Your Hands aren't like Turn Evil. They actually can serve a vital purpose, even making the difference between a wipe or a kill in some cases. Indeed, I would posit that one of the dividing lines between good paladins and great paladins (regardless of spec) is how intelligently they use their Hands.
Best practices for Hands
The key to making the most of your Hand spells is to deploy them with a rapid-fire reaction time. The easiest way to speed up your ability to throw out a Hand of Sacrifice or a Hand of Salvation at a moment's notice is with keybinds.
In my setup, I have my Hand spells bound to four different keys and macroed with shift modifiers so that if the normal key is shift-pressed, the ability fires off on my target, or if unmodified-pressed, it is used on whomever I am currently mousing over.
I find the latter functionality to be key, as it makes throwing a Hand of Sacrifice on your co-tank so much quicker if you only have to mouse over his or her spot in Grid or (in my case) your focus frame.
Lend a Hand to your co-tank
And speaking of Hand of Sacrifice, I find that that is often my most often-used spell of the bunch. Having an external cooldown that I can throw on my co-tank -- you know, in fights where we can actually have more than one tank -- is very, very valuable.
In this day and age, you know how important cooldowns are to keeping the tank alive. Having an additional one that you can use on another person, without having to worry about a debuff like Forbearance, is Donald Trump-style yuge.
The ever-handy taunt and bubble
This is a neat trick that I've been looking forever for an opening to share, but I've yet to find a column where it was appropriate to do so. Therefore, under the thin veneer of involving Hand of Reckoning, I finally have my window.
When you fire off a taunt -- Hand of Reckoning, for example -- a debuff is applied to your target called Taunted (basically, a Fixate) with a 3-second duration. For that duration, the target cannot attack anyone but you, no matter what (well, except for death).
Where this crosses the line into creative use of game mechanics (a recurring theme with these) is that you can then immediately use Divine Shield for the duration of that Fixate without worrying about the boss turning around and murdering whomever was occupying spot #2 on the threat list. That means, for all intents and purposes, that Hand of Reckoning plus Divine Shield can constitute another cooldown. Big hit coming with an obvious timer? Right before it goes off, taunt and bubble, then laugh as that big hit impotently bounces off your immunity effect.
Likewise, you can use this technique as an enrage timer is approaching. Bosses are typically untauntable once they enrage, but in the final second or two you can taunt and bubble to buy the raid a few more seconds to hopefully deliver a kill. Back in Icecrown Citadel, I was able to survive the (heroic) Blood Queen's enrage on two separate occasions as we were learning the fight, persisting long enough to allow DoTs to finish her off. You can't beat the hero feeling.
The more situational Hands
The remaining three hands -- Hand of Protection, Hand of Salvation, and Hand of Freedom -- aren't as practical as the first two, but in certain fights they can play a pretty big role.
Hand of Protection, for example, was key in learning heroic Majordomo Staghelm. Putting this on a melee DPSer right before Searing Seeds went out prevented an application of the debuff and thus the loss of the DPSer's Concentration bonus, which when done en masse could boost the raid's DPS enough to make that first kill happen. Likewise, on Madness of Deathwing, Hand of Protection can also be used to counteract the damage of Impale, which is purely physical damage.
Hand of Freedom has a pretty big impact on Hagara in Dragon Soul. It can be used to counteract two slows in the fight. One is from her bubble during the ice phase, Watery Entrenchment, which slows anyone moving within the massive bubble. Having a Hand of Freedom on allows the person to either escape the bubble very quickly when it first comes up or to quickly move through it if they're trying to weave around an ice wall and join the rest of the raid. On heroic mode of the same fight, Hand of Freedom is key to dispelling the Frostflake debuff.
And Hand of Salvation is the most situational of all. One of those rare circumstances where some DPSer is starting to climb up the threat charts and nipping at your heels? Perhaps your keyboard is broken? Good time to throw this on them! Sadly, thanks to the obviating of threat, you're rarely going to find a time when Salvation might be helpful. The last example I can think of is going into burn phases on heroic Alysrazor when the legendary-wielding mage has ungodly amounts of haste and lights up the boss like there's no tomorrow. Salvation's a good way to keep him on two feet.
Ultimately, it's important to remember that there is a place in dungeons and raids for your Hand spells. Use them just like the dead vote in Chicago -- early and often -- and you'll be well positioned to make a difference in the outcome of any fight.
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.