There are whispers in our guild about an alt run coming up in the next week or two, and in preparation, I have been slowly working on leveling my paladin from 80 to 85. For some reason, I’ve struggled more in re-adjusting my thinking this expansion as opposed to the BC to Wrath transition. I blame it on the way things changed: BC to Wrath we were completely redesigned from the ground up, but this time, we’ve had some design changes while leaving the core abilities pretty much the same.
I finally figured it out by wiping my keybinds, putting some bars on my screen, and grouping up my abilities into handy categories which I gradually adjusted as I figured out what to use when. This brief introduction to the redesigned paladin abilities is geared towards those leveling or pursuing entry-level dungeons.
Currently the paladin rotation, commonly referred to as 939, is built around 3 groups of abilities: a core ability (3) that you cast every other cooldown and which builds holy power, an alternate filler ability (9) that you cast every other cooldown, and a finishing ability (9) which replaces your filler when you reach 3 stacks of holy power.
Filler –> Core –> Filler –> Core –>Filler–>Core–>Finisher–>Core–>Filler–>Core–>Filler–>Core–>Finisher
Which core ability you will user for an encounter depends entirely on whether you have a single or multi-target situation. Crusader Strike (CS) will be used for single target scenarios while Hammer of the Righteous (HotR) is the ability of choice in multi-target battles. There is no reason to switch between the two unless the number of mobs in the encounter has changed.
Each of our filler abilities is set on a different, and sometimes lengthy, cooldown. Judgement should be your first filler, and will be cast every other “filler” slot. Avenger’s Shield (AS) and Consecration (Con) have much longer cooldowns, and for the second “filler” slot must be alternated. So, in a normal scenario, your rotation will look like this:
Now, what about if you specced into Avenger’s Strike? Or maybe you just fumbled the fingers a bit, and now you have Con/AS on GCD and it’s time to do something! Never fear Holy Wrath (HW) can fill up that whole for you.
When you reach 3 Holy Power (and get to level 81) you’ve got three options for draining your holy bar. Shield of the Righteous (SotR) is never, ever a bad choice. It hits like a freight-truck. However, if you’re tanking a pack of mobs Inquisition can be a better choice as it will provide a nice damage boost to your upcoming Con/AS. Word of Glory (WoG) is more situational, and will depend on what you’re doing at the time. If you’re soloing, don’t hesitate to give yourself a heal in a tight spot. If you’re in a dungeon, check your threat first, as WoG will put you behind.
I’ve tried to group up the rest of our bajillion “regular use” abilities into some kind of coherence. Although we have access to a few more spells than these (notably heals) if I thought it was impractical for you to be using it except as a lark (or in between pulls) I left it off the list.
Now, while I have you captive, I’m going to climb up onto my little soapbox for a minute and give you this nugget of wisdom: Don’t pull with a taunt. A taunt does not generate threat on its own. When no damage has been done to the target all it does is put up a flag that says “sucker over here.” Then when your mage lands 14 crits in a row, you’re outta luck until your taunt comes off cool-down.
Now, if you hadn’t taunted the pull, and instead pulled with an exorcism, you might still lose threat when your mage gets 14 crits in a row; however, 1) your taunt will be readily available to drag that mob back to you, and 2) you will now have an appreciable threat lead because your taunt just gave you pull threat + threat generated by the target you taunted off of. Awesome, huh?
Now, when it comes to taunting you can choose the safe single target method with Hand of Reckoning (HoR) or the “OMIGOD they’re everywhere! Catch them!” multi-target taunt, Righteous Defense (RD). RD is an interesting taunt because it is limited (3 targets) and pulls off of a specific target. So if you have two mobs on your priest and one on your mage, and taunt the one off your mage, the 2 on the priest will continue to ignore you. This mechanic can also get you in trouble in multi-tank situations (raids) where the boss tank has managed to get a straggling add and you choose to use RD gaining you not only the little add, but the boss as well.
Practicing “taunting” targets even while solo is good practice to make sure you are ready to use your taunt when you get tossed into a group situation!
Keeping yourself alive and generating threat is why there ARE tanks, so make sure you know what you can use to keep yourself alive and well. Your most used personal protection spell will be Divine Protection (DP). It’s down to one minute, so use if often! Lay on Hands (LoH) is still severely limited by time, but it can keep you out of a pickle by maxing out your health. If you don’t need it, feel free to share it with a friend. Hand of Protection has also changed a bit, you no longer get dumped off the threat table, but it only prevents physical damage now.
Some tanks have a better track record with clearing up their own debuffs with Cleanse than others. Most of the time, you don’t have to worry about it too much (I mean, you DO have a healer looking for that stuff) but cleanse is actually pretty darn powerful, and not all classes can tackle all debuffs.
The final option for guarding your back is Ancient Guardian which you gain at L85. It’s much more powerful than Divine Protection, but has the cooldown to match.
Oh, how I always dreamed of having an interrupt. The day is finally here with Rebuke–it’s on a ten-second cooldown, but it’s better than trying to interrupt with Hammer of Justice (HoJ). Hammer of Justice isn’t gonna help much on that next boss fight, but for soloing or trash it can be a good way to keep a mob in place or keep a critter from running despite it’s forever and a day cooldown.
Exorcism has lost some of its flexibility–it’s got a cast time again–but it can be a great way to open a fight. Avenging Wrath (AW/Wings) is likewise a great starter spell giving you a great threat lead.
Hammer of Wrath (HoW) is only available once a mob has reached the last 20% of their life, but it does pretty good damage, and can be neatly fit in between rotation spots.
Turn Evil has limited applications so far this expansion. Not enough zombies, skeletons or ghouls shambling around the countryside!
I threw Divine Shield down here because it is almost purely a solo only spell. Since it protects you from all damage, it also keeps temporarily removes you from the threat table, and should be avoided in the group setting when possible. Divine Guardian is likewise limited, but this time to party or raid settings only since it doesn’t actually prevent any damage you’re taking.
I also thought Holy Radiance was worth a mention. It won’t provide a ton of healing, but for solo projects or just in tight spots, it can help stabilize you and all it cost is a measly GCD.
Hands are protection that we can use on ourselves or extend to fellow party/raid members. For ourselves (and our friends) you have Hand of Protection which provides temporary relief from physical damage and Hand of Freedom which frees the target from movement-impairing effects.
Our other hands are primarily for group/raid members. Hand of Salvation lowers a player’s threat on the threat table; while you could potentially need a threat reduction in a raid setting, I’d still stay away from salvation unless you choose to glyph it. Hand of Sacrifice transfers a player’s damage to us, which can make it rather tricky to use. I’d generally suggest have a PP cooldown available to limit the damage you’re already taking if you’re going to shoulder another player’s damage.
I almost neglected this section since auras haven’t changed much, but we’ll go ahead and do a quick recap. Devotion Aura is a solid “base” choice if you’re worried about reducing damage. If you’re soloing or more concerned with threat, feel swap over to Retribution Aura. Resistance Aura now combines Fire, Frost and Shadow protection and is great when working on spellcasters (assuming you don’t have a holy paladin with Aura Mastery). Use of Concentration Aura will likely be extremely limited if at all, but it can help out your ranged dps/healers. Crusader Aura is still for flying only, and should be removed for any combat scenario.