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The Light and How to Swing It: Post-patch 5.0.4 round-up for tankadins

The Light and How to Swing It The prot paladin 504 survival guide SAT
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.

Finally the pre-release patch has come and we're in that exciting interregnum time between the tired, old content and the piping-hot new stuff. There were a lot of changes made to the protection spec and, on the whole, I really think Blizzard nailed it. Yet, there are still a lot of growing pains, as with any pre-release patch, and today I'm going to talk about ways to mitigate that so you can finish out Cataclysm at the top of your game and totally ready for everything Pandaria has in store.

How it feels

Active mitigation is definitely a huge playstyle change -- cataclysmic, even. In the past, all we did was stand there and let our defensive stats do the work for us, and throw in a cooldown things got hairy. Now our survivability depends on us being on top of our game, landing our attacks, and managing our buffs more intently.

If this seems overwhelming, it really shouldn't.

It's easy to manage once you get the swing of things! I've done a few raids and dungeons since the 5.0.4 patch dropped, and despite some (ok, a lot) of initial flailing, I have a pretty good lock on things. I think the absolute biggest stumbling point for me was (and is) brute-forcing my muscle memory to adapt to a CS-X-X rotation. After every filler, my hand wants to reach for the E key for my next Crusader Strike, which obviously is still on cooldown. A week later I seem to have mostly conquered the compulsion, thankfully.

On a related note, the Vengeance change that went out in the patch is definitely noticeable, in two regards. One is that on certain hard-hitting bosses tank DPS has the potential to be utterly ridiculous. I did a heroic Firelands 10 raid on Thursday night, and on Baleroc -- without even trying, mind you -- I did 104k DPS. This is without wearing any DPS gear or adding haste with gems/reforges. I can only imagine the numbers a tank, that's peacocking on purpose, could post.

The other ramification of the new Vengeance is less enjoyable. Tank swaps are a pain at the moment. With massive, uncapped stacks, there is a major potential to immediately rip the boss back after the other tank taunts it off of you. The stop-gap for now is to give the other tank a few seconds to build their Vengeance, or to use Hand of Salvation on yourself if you want to be absolutely sure. Either way it's a huge pain at the moment.

How to balance your avoidance

One of the biggest conundrums right now is figuring out how to balance your dodge and parry to minimize stat loss to diminishing returns. In Cataclysm this was a fairly simple affair, just make the two even when you are fully buffed. Now, after 5.0.4, the system is markedly different and we're expected to have vastly more parry than dodge. Thankfully, Theck has written a spreadsheet where you can plug in your avoidance numbers and it will tell you how much parry or dodge you need to balance the two.

Some WeakAuras for tracking your buffs

I've found that with the various new buffs and abilities we received in 5.0.4, I needed to update my suite of WeakAuras so I could be absolutely aware of what was going on with all the new toys. The WeakAuras I set up include:
  • Sacred Shield checker: Just a simple text "SS" appears next to my character, colored red, whenever Sacred Shield is not active. Whenever it appears, I know to spend the next GCD reapplying the buff. This spares me from having to look at the top left of the screen, hunting down the icon (wherever it moved to), and parsing how much time is left on it. Considering how short Sacred Shield's duration is, this is a critical aura for me to make sure I'm not unprotected.
  • Bastion of Glory tracker: Not that it will keep me from using Word of Glory when I need it, but I like knowing how many stacks of Bastion of Glory I am currently working with. A small yellow number sits under the Sacred Shield checker, reading between one and five, and corresponding to how many stacks of Bastion I have.
  • Weakened Blows checker: A tracker appears above the target frame, tracking the duration of Weakened Blows, if it's on the target. This allows me to stay on top of that critical debuff, and make sure I don't neglect keeping it up. It also isn't intrusive, so I'm not distracting myself with notifications that Weakened Blows is up on some random, level 85 target.
Future tweaks

There was an interesting post from Ghostcrawler in the Beta Class Balance Analysis thread, the other day. In it, he said:
After consideration, we are a bit worried about paladin survivability as well. Shield of the Righteous, buffed by mastery, is a massive amount of mitigation, but the risk is that whenever paladins didn't have it available, they'd risk spike damage. (As an aside, it was also weird for paladins to suddenly be the spikey tank after years of being the opposite.) We're going to increase the Stamina benefit of Guarded by the Light from 15% to 25%.
Very interesting, and makes total sense. Psychologically, prot paladins do feel a bit spikey after being the smooth damage tank for years. I wonder if more stamina will suffice in mitigating that perception.

In the same post, he also brought up that they "are moving the initial tick of Sacred Shield to the end. We didn't want players to feel like the right way to play was to constantly cancel and overwrite the bubble."

There was a fun twist to Sacred Shield where up until a few days ago whenever you cast the spell, you'd immediately get an absorption bubble. As a result, it could have been a viable strategy to just cast Sacred Shield whenever it was off cooldown, to maximize damage absorbed. I'm glad they nipped that in the bud.

The stamina boost isn't in game yet [correction: It was hotfixed in already, thanks Kerriodos!], but it appears that they have already hotfixed in the Sacred Shield fix.

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.

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

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